'Censorship has no place in a democracy': Sanef applauds Icasa's SABC ruling

The 'Black Friday' march from the SABC to Constitution Hill. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The 'Black Friday' march from the SABC to Constitution Hill. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The South African National Editor’s Forum (Sanef) has welcomed the ruling by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), directing the SABC to withdraw its decision to ban visuals of violent protests.

Icasa on Monday ordered that the SABC withdraw its decision after a public hearing was held on June 24, following complaints from a number of civil bodies last month.

“The decision affirms media freedoms and sends a strong message that censorship has no place in a democracy,” Sanef said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Sanef is, however, shocked and dismayed by the SABC decision to not immediately lift the ban, but to rather take the matter on review.

“We believe the SABC, as a public institution that derives its mandate from the Constitution, would best lead by abiding by a chapter nine institution’s decision.”

Sanef said the SABC’s editorial policy has always been guided by public input, and therefore the decision to ban certain footage “flies in the face of the spirit of the Constitution”.

“It is a decision that risks returning the SABC to the dark old days of apartheid, where the institution that is supposed to be a public broadcaster was used as a mouthpiece of the then government.”

‘Sanitising the news’
Sanef said the broadcaster had failed to prove that airing visuals of violent protests encouraged others to do the same, and also questioned the SABC’s comparison to that of publishing pictures and footage of dead bodies.

“The two are not the same. Editors across the country continue to take decisions on graphic pictures every single day, guided by the spirit of public interest.

“The SABC should be guided by the Broadcast Complaints Commission of South Africa on publishing or broadcasting pictures and footage that could fall under ‘gratuitous violence’.”

The decision to ban footage completely amounted to sanitising the news, the group concluded.

The SABC has been given seven days from Monday to respond to Icasa’s ruling. – News24

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