We welcome Matthews's decision to resign – NUMSA

Federation says they demand immediate and unconditional reinstatement of suspended journalists

Numsa statement on SABC

29 June 2016

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) strongly condemns the suspension of three South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) journalists - economics editor, Thandeka Gqubule, Radio Sonder Grense executive producer Foeta Krige and senior journalist Suna Venter - for the “offence” of questioning the ban on visual coverage of protests, in particular a protest against censorship at the public broadcaster itself.

The union demands their immediate and unconditional reinstatement.

We also welcomes the decision of Acting CEO Jimi Matthews to resign‚ for, as he puts it, having been “complicit in many decisions which I am not proud of” and the authors of the  from the Executive Producer (EP) of Special Assignment, Busisiwe Ntuli, EP of Current Affairs Krivani Pillay and a senior investigative reporter Jacques Steenkamp, expressing their "increasing concern" about the changes in the SABC newsroom, which they say “has become a source of derision, despair and criticism from the people that we are fundamentally accountable to, the public at large".

"The developments of the past week have heightened this sense of fear, lack of clarity about our journalistic responsibility and low staff morale," they write, and disapprove of “the decisions to remove the newspaper slots and morning programme The Editors on SAFM's AM Live show, saying their removal amounts to ‘censorship’ without an adequate justification. They also express their "deep concern" for the journalists suspended by the broadcaster for stating their desire to cover a protest outside the SABC building.

The union also demands the immediate implementation of the sanctions called for by the Public Protector in When Governance and Ethics Fail, which found that the SABC COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, had misrepresented his qualifications, abused power and improperly made appointments and salary increments. 

By censoring images of anti-government protests which the government does not want the people to see, the SABC is betraying its mandate to be the voice of and for all the people of South Africa and becoming an authoritarian media channel for the government and ruling party, making it impossible to trust to be painting a truthful picture of South African society.

It is moving towards becoming a state broadcaster, like the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s 1984, which was in reality the broadcaster of lies, to persuade the people that “war is peace," "freedom is slavery," "ignorance is strength”. The equivalent in South Africa is that “a bad story to tell is a good story to tell”.

It is just as important for viewers and listened to receive hear the bad news as the good news. If this trend continues it will spread from banning visual images of protest to banning the words of protesters; voices like Numsa’s, which condemn unacceptable levels of unemployment, poverty, inequality and exploitation, will be censored and silenced.

Numsa also supports the campaign to force the SABC and MultiChoice to unravel the agreement which in effect amounts to the privatisation of the public broadcaster by putting it under the control of a subsidiary of South Africa’s biggest media company, Naspers. This has given this super-rich business, with its roots in the apartheid era, indirect influence over SABC news policies and control of its massive programme archive.

All this is particularly alarming because for millions of the poorest South Africans in rural areas, the SABC is their main or even only source of news, and they are therefore are being deprived of access to true reports of what is happening in the country but being fed pro-government and pro-capitalist propaganda.

Numsa will work with the UF and other organisations which is  exposing the degeneration of the public broadcaster.

Issued by Patrick Craven, Acting NUMSA Spokesperson, 29 June 2016