/ 3 September 2007

Sanco backs SABC withdrawal from Sanef

The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) on Monday commended the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for its ”brave and patriotic decision” to break ties with the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef).

The SABC broke ranks with the forum in protest over its stance on Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the publication of details from her medical records.

In a statement, Sanco said Sanef had made a decision to undermine the rights upheld in the Constitution to defend ”so-called public interest”.

It said this revealed a crude right-wing agenda and unqualified support of the ”immoral and illegal” activities of the Sunday Times.

”Sanef is attempting by all means to appoint the profit-driven media as the un-elected defender of the public interest,” it said.

Sanco also called on the African National Congress to review government policy on the role of the media.

”The abuse of the freedom of expression is a danger to the Constitution and media freedom itself, and is a recipe for anarchy and thereby slowing down our transformation of South African society and our battle to overcome poverty and achieve national reconciliation,” it said.

On Monday, Sanef chairperson Jovial Rantao said it had responded to the SABC’s letter of withdrawal and had asked for a meeting.

The SABC confirmed it had received the reply.

Neither party would say when the meeting would take place.

The SABC’s group chief executive and the board wrote a letter — circulated to the media on Friday — withdrawing its membership from Sanef.

”We are withdrawing from the membership of Sanef. We will consider it [our membership] once issues raised [in the letter] have been dealt with,” SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said on Saturday.

In the letter, it was reported that the SABC would no longer stand idle ”whilst we are being made a whipping boy and a scapegoat by the profit-driven media”.

”Even less are we prepared to associate with the enemies of our freedom and our people.

”We cannot remain quiet while our mothers and our democratically chosen leaders are stripped naked for the sole reason of selling newspapers.”

Sanef is funded largely by corporate donations and funding obtained from major media houses on an annual basis, including the SABC.

Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Monday said the SABC should be cautious of having an image of defending only those who are close to the government.

Amid reaction to the SABC’s withdrawal from Sanef, Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven noted that the electronic media, including the SABC, had ”not sunk to the same depths as some of the print media”.

However, Cosatu said it was concerned at the SABC’s lack of consistency.

”When other public figures such as African National Congress (ANC) deputy president Jacob Zuma, or Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, were subjected to personal attacks in the media similar to those recently launched against the minister of health, there was no word of condemnation from the SABC.

”The corporation is right to condemn bad journalism but it must be done even-handedly, regardless of whom the victim is,” said Craven. — Sapa