State broadcaster the SABC says 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.
SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng called it a “bold move” and said that it was in line with the broadcaster’s mandate of educating the nation.
Motsoeneng said that the broadcaster will show that violent protests are not necessary, saying that “as a responsible public institution, we will not assist these individuals to push their agenda that seeks media attention”.
The SABC did not detail what constitutes “violent” protest, but said that it will not show any footage of public property being destroyed.
The broadcaster said that it upheld citizens’ rights to protest, but maintained that the decision to not air destruction of state property would encourage citizens to protest peacefully.
Destructive protests in South Africa have been increasing in number – notably in various districts unhappy with service delivery or the changing of municipal boundaries leading up to the 2016 local elections.
In the past few weeks, 17 schools in Vuwani municipality in Limpopo were burnt to the ground, reportedly in protest of a High Court decision in a demarcation matter involving the integration of the Vhembe District.
Other protests by students on campuses across South Africa also involved actions which would presumably now be deemed “violent” by the SABC, and not be covered by the broadcaster.
The SABC has in the past been accused of censorship, with opposition parties claiming that it has become a propaganda machine for the government. Citizens have reacted to the decision by calling it a move towards state censorship.
The full SABC statement:
The SABC has noted with concern the recent turmoil arising from violent service delivery protests in various parts of the country.
As a public service broadcaster, the SABC condemns the burning of public institutions and has made a decision not to show footage of people burning public institutions, like schools, in any of its news bulletins with immediate effect.
The SABC acknowledges fact that citizens have constitutional rights to protest and voice concerns on various issues that they are not happy with, but the SABC doesn’t believe destruction of property is best way to voice grievances – and promoting them might encourage other communities to do same.
The SABC would like to stress that it’ll continue to cover news without fear or favour, but it will not cover people destroying public property.
The SABC appeals to other broadcasters and media to stand in solidarity and not cover violent protests that are destroying public institutions.