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Sanef plans to meet with MPs to discuss concerns over SABC censorship

The SABC’s management has come up against opposition from the media industry and civil society.

Former Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi joined the picket outside the SABC offices in Auckland Park today calling for an end to censorship. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) says it plans to meet with Members of Parliament to discuss concerns about censorship and suppression of freedom of speech at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

The SABC's management has come up against opposition from the media industry and civil society, for cracking down on journalists who speak up about censorship at the broadcaster.

Three senior journalists who raised concerns about a climate of fear in their newsrooms have been charged internally, while three others were suspended last week for going against a decision not to cover a protest.

Demonstrations were held outside SABC offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town yesterday, in support of staff there.

Sanef's Adrian Basson says, "So what we'll do next is to engage the role players, including Parliament Portfolio Committee on Communication. We'll also engage other role player like Mr. Jimi Matthews, the former acting CEO and head of news who resigned from the SABC this week."

CASAC URGES PARLIAMENT TO INTERVENE

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 said 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 said 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."

WATCH: Suspended journalists turn to Constitutional Court

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.

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

He said 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."

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