'SABC should've tried to find a creative way around reporting on protests'

Sanef says on the surface the policy appears to have good intentions but the reasons are not convincing.

FILE: The SABC has made a decision to stop broadcasting the burning of infrastructure during protests, saying it incites violence. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) says the South African Broadcasting Corporation's (SABC) new policy is not in line with the national broadcaster's mandate and will cause journalists to provide half-truths.

The SABC has made a decision to stop broadcasting the burning of infrastructure during protests, saying it incites violence.

Sanef says on the surface, the policy appears to have good intentions, but the reasons are not convincing.

Chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela says the SABC should have tried to find a creative way around reporting on protests.

"We think by instructing the journalists to act in the manner in which they've been instructed, would amount to incomplete stories and it will rob the public of much-needed information, for them to make their own judgement. We don't think it's a good decision."

LISTEN: SABC explains decision to halt broadcasts of violent protests

In a statement released this evening, Sanef said:

"The announcement by the SABC that it would henceforth not broadcast footage of "destruction of property" during news bulletins is unfortunate and shocking.

Whilst it is every media house's prerogative to formulate editorial policy about what to publish or broadcast, such policy, in line with the public mandate of media, has to be in the public interest.

Thus, many media houses would not publish or broadcast pictures and footage of dead bodies or what the Broadcast Complaints Commission of SA calls "gratuitous violence". However, the stand taken by the SABC amounts to censorship and must be condemned.

No right thinking person would support the destruction of public facilities in the name of protest, and all media houses in this country have condemned such vandalism, but reporting on such acts in their fullest possible way by the media allows South Africans to know what is happening.

What the SABC has decided to do is sanitise the news and is a disservice to the South African public.

This country has been here before, when the apartheid regime blamed media and particularly TV cameras for the spreading nationwide uprisings of the time.

It ended with the police barring journalists from areas where protests were taking place. A picture of false peace was being manufactured. The SABC followed the government dictate at the time.

They failed then to mislead and hide information as people lost all confidence in the news provided by the SABC and instead turned to newspapers and foreign media for a true picture of what was happening.

The SABC changed from being the mouthpiece of government when democracy dawned, and this unfortunate decision returns the broadcaster into a past it should not be associated with.

Sanef consulted with the Acting Group CEO Jimi Matthews and expressed our shock and displeasure at the decision. We also indicated that we believe the decision should be rescinded without delay."

THE DA RESPONDS:

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 COO Hlaudi 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 (ANC).

"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

At the same time, 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."