Complaint withdrawn against SABC over ‘blacklist’

The DA has urged the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) and the SABC to reveal the terms of their settlement over the blacklisting of political commentators.

"It is unacceptable that a case that is clearly in the public interest … should be settled behind closed doors without the terms of this settlement being made public," Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn said on Monday.

"South Africans concerned with the suppression of diverse views … are anxious to learn what, if any, compromises or sanctions have been decided."

Earlier, the FXI withdrew its complaint against the SABC, but declined to give reasons for it.

"Parties were engaged in a settlement agreement … and the FXI hereby withdraws its complaints," said Nasreen Rajab-Budlender, acting for the FXI.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and the institute declined to give reasons for the withdrawal.

No complaint remaining
Hamilton Maenetje, senior counsel for the SABC, said the dispute had been resolved.

"There is no complaint remaining … We ask for a termination of proceedings."

A public hearing by the Complaints Compliance Committee (CCC) of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) was to be heard on Monday.

The FXI lodged the complaint in 2007 after allegations surfaced of a "blacklist" implemented by then-group executive of news for the SABC, Snuki Zikalala.

It was believed Zikalala instructed his staff not to use certain political commentators because of their political views on the Thabo Mbeki presidency. These commentators held particular views on the African National Congress's succession debate.

Long road, short ending
An independent commission of inquiry set up by the SABC found Zikalala had given the instruction. Based on this finding, the FXI laid a complaint with Icasa.

It contended the SABC violated the Broadcasting Act, the Icasa Act, the Constitution and its licence conditions by excluding commentators from expressing their views on the succession debate at the time.

The SABC made an application to Icasa to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the CCC had no jurisdiction to investigate, hear, or make findings on the complaint. The CCC ruled in favour of the SABC.

The FXI then took the matter to the High Court in Johannesburg, which set aside the ruling and found Icasa did in fact have the authority to monitor the SABC's compliance.

The matter was referred back to the CCC to investigate and come to a decision on the matter. – Sapa

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