The SABC owes SA the whole truth, and nothing but truth - DA

Party hopes ICASA will fulfill its constitutional mandate and make sure the broadcastersticks to its legislative mandate

The SABC owes South Africa the whole truth, and nothing but truth 

24 June 2016

The DA supports all action to ensure that the SABC upholds its mandate as our country’s public broadcaster.

As such, we are here today to lend our full support to the civil society organisations who have brought to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC), the SABC’s decision to censor all footage of violent protests.

Last month Media Monitoring Africa, the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute lodged an urgent complaint with the CCC on this matter.

Today, that matter will be heard. 

The decision to censor all footage of violent protests is an affront to all of South Africa. 

We are rational adults capable of seeing right from wrong.

We do not need the truth to be sugarcoated.

We want the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from the SABC.

We want the good and the bad of South Africa relayed to us in the news, warts and all.

We trust that ICASA will fulfill its constitutional mandate and make sure that the SABC sticks to its legislative mandate to provide news coverage that is accurate and fair.

Anything less would see the death knell being struck for the hard-won right for South African’s to receive and impart information.

Let’s not be sidetracked by the dozens of excuses advanced by Hlaudi Motsoeneng in support of his decision to censor footage of violent protests. 

The law is very clear about the SABC’s obligations in presenting the news. 

The Broadcasting Act and ICASA Regulations Regarding the Code of Conduct for Broadcasting Service Licensees issued in terms of section 54 of the Electronic Communications Act both have strict requirements about the news.

The ICASA regulations, in particular, require that the SABC must:

- report news truthfully, accurately and fairly;

- that the news must be presented in the correct context and in a fair manner, without international or negligent departure from facts, whether by distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation, material omissions or summarization. 

The arguments Hlaudi Motsoeneng has given therefore do not hold water.

The law does not allow for him to leave crucial information out, particularly in news stories that are in the public interest.

Over the past few months the Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, and ANC’s NEC sub-committee on Communications has sought to exert total control over the SABC.

With their support, and under their instruction, since the beginning of the year with Hlaudi Motsoeneng has overseen:

- The banning of footage of violent protest;

- The attempted banning of call-ins;

- The canning of Vuyo Mvoko’s talk show;

- The canning of “The Editors” on SAFM

- The canning of “Komentaar” on RSG 

- Delaying the airing of DA adverts; and

- The disproportionate coverage of opposition party’s political events.

We believe the battle against state capture and censorship at the SABC is one that transcends all political boundaries, and is in the public interest. 

We encourage all other political parties, civil society organisations, academics and the public to make their voices heard against the ongoing censorship at the SABC. 

Just this week the DA brought the SABC’s unfair treatment when covering opposition parties to the attention of the South African people. The DA believes that the SABC has failed in its mandate to allocate fair and equitable coverage to opposition parties. If the situation does not improve the DA will consider referring the SABC to ICASA’s CCC. Our analysis of coverage from 5 June 2016 to 20 June 2016 reveals disproportionate coverage of the DA as compared to the ANC, which we have found to be treated preferentially by the SABC.

The coverage split for the 3 largest political parties on terrestrial TV news since 05 June reveals a gross disparity between the parties in question. The coverage per the three biggest parties is as follows: 

- ANC- 5 hours 16 min 17 sec

- DA- 1 hour 19 min 18 sec ; and

-EFF- 50 min 02 sec.

This means that the ANC’s coverage went up from nearly 3 times more than the DA to almost 5 times more.

Contributory to this irrational allocation of coverage is the near SABC broadcast black-out on this week’s horrific events in Tshwane that saw five people dead. That the SABC has to date not provided proper broadcasting of the civil unrest in Tshwane is disgraceful and represents the height in this media censorship and we are confident that the CCC will not abide such draconian censorship of the media. The SABC took an oath and has a statutory obligation to act in the public interest and that is why we are here today.

We need to see the same united South Africa displayed in opposition to the Secrecy Bill, because our rights to freedom of speech, and the right to receive information is under serious threat.

The DA is committed to restoring the integrity and independence of the SABC that should not act to censor communication just because they do not like how it reflects on the ANC’s poor leadership. 

We will not stop until this is achieved.

The South African public have a right to the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Issued by Phumzile Van Damme, DA National Spokesperson, 24 June 2016