The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has been ordered by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to reverse its editorial decision to censor ‘violent protests’ in the country.
In May, the SABC said it will no longer show violent protests on any of its channels in a bid to “educate the population”, and send a message that violent action will not get them the attention they seek.
The broadcaster made good on these promises by refusing to air any footage of protests that broke out in the weeks following the announcement, and hardly made mention of the massive protest action which played out in Tshwane, in which 5 people lost their lives.
The SABC doubled down on its censorship action by also refusing to air any coverage of other media reporting on violent protests – which included the cancellation of current affairs radio shows, and stopping presenters from reading newspaper headlines on air.
Following complaints and protest action against the SABC’s decision, Icasa held public hearings on the matter in the following weeks. The outcome of the hearings, after considering all the facts before it, Icasa ruled that the decision should be reversed.
The SABC board chair is now required to write to Icasa in 7 days to confirm its reversal of the controversial decision.
The broadcaster has maintained that the decision was not a ‘policy’ which was adopted by the company, but rather an editorial decision for the direction of the newsroom.
It said that it would still cover violent protests – but only the aftermath, with no live coverage as public property was being destroyed.
Despite its apparent ‘non-official’, ‘non-censorship’ stance, several senior journalists were suspended for not following the ‘guideline’.
The SABC said it will hold a press conference at 3pm on Monday, following the ruling.