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SABC: Decision on protest broadcasts is not self-censorship

The public broadcaster says it will no longer air content displaying violent service delivery protests.

FILE: SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says its decision not to broadcast footage of protesters destroying public institutions does not amount to self-censorship.

The public broadcaster says airing footage of protesters destroying infrastructure given to them by government encourages other communities to do the same.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago says although some people will view this move as self-censorship, the public broadcaster believes it has made the right decision.

"You can call it whatever you want to call it, we're clear why we made the decision. It's got nothing to do with self-censorship. People will have their own interpretations of what they want to interpret it to be."

Kganyago says reporters will still be deployed to cover the violent protests.

"We'll not show footage of people who are burning property in order to discourage them from thinking that they can just attract our attention by burning those properties. We believe that behaviour is disruptive."

Last year, SABC Chief Operations Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng accused the media of encouraging young people to become criminals by reporting on crime.

He strongly believes the media needs to be regulated. The SABC says it will still cover news without fear or favour.

In a statement, the SABC condemned the acts of public and private property vandalism and said it had made a decision to not show footage of people burning public institutions, like schools, in any of its news bulletins, with immediate effect.

"We are not going to provide publicity to such actions that are destructive and regressive," the statement said.

The statement said the recent violent protests and vandalism are regrettable and viewed as regressive on the developments made after 22 years of South Africa's democracy.

Motsoeneng encouraged citizens to protest peacefully without destroying the very same institutions that were needed to restore their dignity.

He labelled the new development as a bold decision, and said he viewed it as the public broadcaster's responsibility to educate citizens.

Kganyago says by not showing footage of protesters vandalising state property, the SABC will be able to decrease the number of violent protests.

"We'll cover [the fact] that there's [a] protest happening, but we'll just shy away from encouraging people to think that when they burn property they will attract our attention."

DA CONSIDERS LEGAL OPTIONS

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance says it's considering its legal options following the announcement.

The party's Phumzile van Damme says the SABC's new editorial policy gives Motsoeneng total control of all the broadcaster's programming and news content.

She says Motsoeneng is using this policy to turn the SABC into a propaganda portal for the African National Congress.

"We've repeatedly asked Faith Muthambi to withdraw this policy and conduct public consultation and as such we're left with no option but to consider possible litigation."

ANC COMMENDS SABC FOR THE MOVE

Furthermore, the ANC has commended the SABC's decision, saying this is in the interest of nation building.

The ANC's Zizi Kodwa says: "If the editorial policy of the national broadcaster is to educate, entertain and create awareness, among others, it will be correct. It's a responsible decision, it's responsible journalism, and it's not self-censorship.

"It's a responsible one to an extent that you don't show what is not in the good interest of nation-building."