SABC suspensions: Vavi hoping for answers from Motsoeneng

Vavi says they want answers because reporters have only raised concerns about editorial policy.

The three suspended SABC journalists - from left Foeta Krige, Thandeka Gqubule & Suna Venter. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Former Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says he's hoping for answers from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (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.

Yesterday, dozens of journalists, civil society groups and union members, demonstrated outside the broadcaster's building in Auckland Park, calling for an end to all forms of censorship.

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

Vavi 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


The SABC 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.

SABC journalist Lukhanyo Calata was among those who demonstrated outside SABC's Sea Point offices.

"Instead of the SABC really trying to address the problem, they are making it worse by suspending people."

Calata said staff at the public broadcaster should not be suspended for speaking out about censorship.

He said journalists should be free to raise issues in the newsroom.

"The contracts that we have with the SABC are for us to question things; to question presidents, ministers, the government, the CEOs of companies and all kinds of things; but as soon as we [start] questioning what happens within our own institution, then we get suspended. How does that work?"