Icasa hears SABC blacklist complaints

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) accused SABC head of news Snuki Zikalala of “crass manipulation” of news and current affairs through his blacklisting of political commentators, an Icasa hearing was told on Wednesday.

FXI counsel Wim Trengove said the blacklist violated the public broadcaster’s own licences, the Broadcasting Act, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) code of conduct for broadcasters and the SABC’s own editorial code.

The matter relates to complaints from staffers that Zikalala interfered with the coverage of Zimbabwe’s elections of 2005 apparently to favour South Africa’s policy of quiet diplomacy towards that country.

He also allegedly threatened disciplinary action against reporter Mandla Zembe who covered KwaZulu-Natal Premier S’bu Ndebele being booed and pelted at a stadium.

He allegedly banned the use of Middle Eastern correspondent Paula Slier.

He apparently would not let former SAFM journalist John Perlman use Business Day political editor Karima Brown.

He also is said to have banned political commentator Aubrey Matshiqi.

Trengove submitted that the SABC was dishonest with the public when confronted on the issue and the SABC board failed to take action after a commission of enquiry.

One of the complaints was that Zikalala said it was untrue that there was a huge shortage in Zimbabwe “because he had stayed at the Sheraton hotel in Zimbabwe and had no problem ordering fresh bread rolls, bottled water and whiskey through room service”.

Former senior SABC staffer Pippa Green said she wrote to Zikalala expressing her concerns but received a one-line reply saying he did not have the “time and energy to be involved in such arguments”.—Sapa

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