SABC has until 30 June to lift suspension – Solidarity

Movement says if broadcaster doesn't allow journalists to resume their duties, they will institute legal action

Solidarity gives SABC until 30 June to lift the suspension of its members

28 June 2016

Trade union Solidarity’s legal team on Monday afternoon issued a letter to the SABC giving the SABC until15:00 on 30 June to reinstate the three suspended SABC journalists in their posts. Should Foeta Krige, Suna Venter and Thandeka Gqubule not resume their duties, Solidarity will institute legal action, which may include an urgent application to the Labour Court. In addition, the letter demands that the unlawful instruction expecting staff to censor information be withdrawn.

This comes after Krige (executive producer of Kommentaar and the news programmes Monitor andSpektrum), Venter (senior RSG producer) and Thandeka Gqubule (the SABC’s business editor), were suspended on Thursday afternoon after they had allegedly objected when banned from reporting on protests of the Right2Know campaign against SABC censorship.

According to Solidarity Chief Executive Dr Dirk Hermann, their suspension infringes on their constitutionally entrenched right to freedom of speech. If they are not allowed to do their work then those rights are being undermined. “The suspension is also a setback for the public’s right of access to information as the three suspended journalists cannot fulfil their duties as journalists of the SABC which, as the public broadcaster, has a mandate to convey information to the public,” Hermann said.

Core constitutional principles are involved in this case, and for that reason Solidarity would fight it all the way to the Constitutional Court, if need be. Three principles are at stake here: The first is freedom of speech; the second is the public’s right to know; and the third involves the constitutional limits imposed on executive power. An executive head may not give an instruction to employees to undermine constitutional principles. In such a case employees not only have a right but even a duty not to implement such an unlawful instruction.

The core of the problem is not what the employees did but it lies with the original instruction that expects journalists to exercise censorship which goes against the very essence of their profession. We are therefore demanding that not only the suspension be lifted but that the unlawful instruction also be withdrawn.

The suspended journalists should be congratulated for standing up for constitutional principles.

Solidarity is representing Krige and Venter, while Gqubule has her own legal team. “The trade union has offered its services to anyone working at the SABC – even if they are not members,” Hermann said.

Issued by Dirk Hermann, Chief Executive, Solidarity, 28 June 2016