‘Dismissal of SABC journalists in breach of their contracts’

Proceedings have now started in the Labour Court in Johannesburg after a two-hour delay.

The Labour Court hears the case by four former SABC employees who want their dismissal reversed. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Lawyers representing four former South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) journalists have argued that their dismissals are in breach of their employment contracts.

Proceedings have now started in the Labour Court in Johannesburg after a two-hour delay.

This week, the public broadcaster agreed to enforce the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa)'s ruling that it reverse its controversial ban on violent protest footage.

Trade union Solidarity has argued that because the employees were fired for being critical of that ban, they should be reinstated now that the censorship decision has been reversed.

Steven Budlender, who is representing the four former SABC employees, says this case is about the extra-ordinary and cynical attempts by the public broadcaster to prevent employees from expressing disagreement.

Budlender started by emphasising that their dismissals were in breach of their employment contracts and the Bill of Rights as the journalists were fired because they questioned and criticised the controversial protest policy.

He says journalists who work for the public broadcaster have a particular duty to advance public interest.

Questioning editorial changes is also within their rights in terms of freedom of expression.

Budlender adds the points he's raised in court today show the dismissals are illegal and unconstitutional.

He says the SABC did not allow internal debate about the protest policy and referred to how management threatened employees who disagreed with editorial changes.