Azapo blasts SABC for biased reporting

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is biased, the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) said on Monday.

Funani ka Ntontela, Azapo’s Eastern Cape secretary, said the manner in which the public broadcaster covers political parties, demonstrated bias in favour of the African National Congress (ANC) and its splinter group Congress of the People (Cope).

“Azapo sent countless letters to the SABC complaining about this sad state of affairs. In all fairness, thus far nothing has changed despite commitment to the contrary,” he said.

He said Azapo in the Eastern Cape met senior representatives from SABC regional management in December last year, where it explained its frustration with the “deliberate blacklisting of Azapo” in the national political discourse, especially, during national elections.

“There was some commitment on the part of SABC that there will be fair and equitable coverage of political parties in the run-up to 2009 elections.”

He said the fair and equitable coverage by the look of things meant the ANC and Cope would be covered every day in news bulletins, talk shows and political debates, such as the debate on Sunday in Port Elizabeth which members of Azapo interrupted.

“Azapo has questioned and continue to criticise the criteria used by SABC in inviting political parties…”

He said before the live programme on Sunday, Azapo regional leaders had an hour-long discussion with organisers of the event, requesting to be allowed into the hall as audience members.

This request was denied because there was no Azapo representative on the panel.

“How could this be an excuse when in some programmes ... people would be allowed to attend, and even ask questions when their organisations were not represented?” he asked.

The SABC programme was temporarily suspended after supporters of Azapo stormed the stage as the broadcast went on air.

It took police officials more than 20 minutes to remove the protesters, armed with placards and banners, from the stage.
Some of the banners alleged that Azapo was not receiving adequate coverage.
They dispersed after police used teargas.

A visibly flustered host, Tim Modise, said the disruption was a disgrace to the legacy of South African democracy.

The broadcast resumed, but had to be suspended again as presenters and guests were affected by the teargas. The programme finally went ahead amid continuous heckling and jeering.

The ANC, Democratic Alliance, United Democratic Movement and Cope were participating in the debate on health issues. Ntontela said they learnt that Azapo would not get “much” coverage because of its level of representation in Parliament.

“We continue to ask, should parliamentary representation nullify the political contribution that Azapo made ... what about those parties that receive coverage even without any single member of Parliament?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the ANC Youth League and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) have sided with Azapo on the issue.

The league said that while it didn’t condone the disruption of a live debate, it supported their complaint and felt Cope was receiving “undue” attention.

The PAC’s Motsoko Pheko said: “The IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] as well as the SABC have committed themselves, at least in public, by saying they were going to give all political parties equal time. We don’t think this is happening because we see the ruling party sitting in every show.

“When we talk about equal time, we talk about fairness.”—Sapa

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