Icasa recommends SABC withdraw protest censorship instruction

Earlier this year, the SABC announced it was taking the decision to promote 'responsible journalism'.

A sign outside the offices of the South African Broadcasting Corporation in Johannesburg. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has recommended the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) withdraw its decision not to broadcast footage of destructive protests.

Icasa's Rubben Mohlaloga says the SABC must reverse the editorial decision not to broadcast violent protest footage.

"The SABC is directed to withdraw its resolution as published in its statement of 26 May 2016, which states that the SABC will no longer broadcast footage of the destruction of public property during protests."

The SABC board has now been given seven days to write to Icasa to confirm the reversal of the controversial editorial changes.

The authority says existing regulatory frameworks do not allow the SABC to impose a blanket ban on footage of violent protests.

Lobby groups that filed complaints with Icasa say they are pleased to see the authority acting in the best interests of the country.

Mohlaloge says the SABC's decision to ban violent protest footage was not in line with a variety of legal guidelines.

"They would have looked at the Broadcasting Act, the Constitution and also the Right to Freedom of Expression that are entrenched in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution."

He says based on this, Icasa's council was in agreement with the complaints and compliance committee, which called for a reversal of the editorial changes.

The body says the public broadcaster has a responsibility to provide fair news coverage, which meets the highest standards of journalism.

LISTEN: SA public has responsibility

The fate of broadcaster's suspended employees, who face disciplinary action for challenging the editorial changes, is still unclear at this stage.

Meanwhile, a briefing is due to start at the SABC's offices in Auckland Park.

WATCH: Suspended journalists turn to Constitutional Court


The broadcaster announced earlier this year that it was taking the decision to promote "responsible journalism".

Last week, lobby groups lodged a complaint with Icasa over the SABC's decision which they said amounted to censorship.

There have been civil society pickets, marches and petitions, over the SABC's editorial changes and whether they are in line with Icasa's code of conduct.

The Save Our SABC Coalition, which is one of the organisations that laid a complaint against the broadcaster, said it was confident Icasa would rule in favour of the South African public.

To read the full judgment, click here.