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Casac calls on Parliament to urgently intervene to fix SABC censorship saga

Casac says the public broadcaster has a constitutional obligation to provide fair and objective reporting.

Members of the media and Right2Know campaigners gathered outside the SABC's offices in Cape Town to protest against censorship on 1 July 2016. Picture: Aletta Harrison/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) has called on Parliament to urgently reconvene the portfolio committee on communications to address concerns of censorship at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Casac says the public broadcaster has a constitutional obligation to provide fair and objective reporting.

The SABC's decision not to air violent footage during protests has been met with resistance by civil society movements and some of its journalists have since been subjected to disciplinary action.

Yesterday, journalists and NGOs picketed outside SABC offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town to demand an end to censorship and the silencing of staff.

Casac's Lawson Naidoo says Parliament needs to intervene to ensure the SABC fulfils its constitutional obligation.

"This is an opportunity for Parliament to chow that it does take its oversight responsibility seriously and we believe that Parliament should urgently reconvene the portfolio committee and communication in order to discuss the crisis at the SABC."

VAVI PRESSURES MOTSOENENG

Former Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says he's hoping for answers from the SABC's COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng on Monday, over the suspension of journalists who raised concerns about policy changes at the public broadcaster.

The trio were suspended for questioning the ban on visuals of protesters destroying property, while three others are now facing disciplinary action for speaking out about the climate of fear at the SABC.

Vavi says now he's met with Motsoeneng and the COO claims he doesn't know why the three journalists were suspended.

He says both the unions and the media want answers because reporters have only raised concerns about editorial policy and therefore should be reinstated.

"He said he didn't know why these people were being suspended and he's going to enquire, maybe we should give him the benefit of doubt. We're meeting him again on Monday."

At the same time dozens of journalists and editors took a stand against censorship yesterday, wearing black and holding up placards calling on Motsoeneng to resign.

Many wore black clothing with tape over their mouths, vowing to continue the fight for media freedom.

Veteran journalist Karima Brown said it's time to take a stand.

"We cannot allow the SABC to be used as a pawn in political fights of the governing party or any other political formation or interest group for that matter."

The Media Workers Association of South Africa's Tuwani Gumani said this is an issue that affects all South Africans.

"What we are fighting for here is a little symptom where journalists have been dismissed; the sickness, the malice is much deeper than that and it is a matter all South Africans must take very seriously."

WATCH: Suspended journalists turn to Constitutional Court

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