‘SABC censorship debate has been sensationalised’

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has downplayed the recent controversies at the SABC.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has downplayed the recent controversies at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) suggesting that editorial changes did not amount to censorship.

The minister was speaking at a community newspaper breakfast in Pretoria today, which looked at the important role grassroots media play in disseminating information to the public.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa ( Icasa) ruled two weeks ago that the SABC's decision to ban images of destructive protests was unlawful.

The public broadcaster's management eventually accepted the ruling and allowed journalists it fired for speaking out to return to work.

Muthambi was asked about her view on the finding by Icasa that its amended editorial policy was unlawful, but instead she attacked commercial media for their coverage of the unrest in Vuwani.

"I've never seen any mainstream media writing articles telling the people why they should not burn schools."

Muthambi says the debate about censorship at the public broadcaster has been sensationalised.

"There's been a hype and the people are saying 'where's the minister of communication? Why is she so quiet?' Not that we don't know what to say. Censorship? I don't know what you mean by censorship."

The minister says commercial media houses push an agenda by portraying the government in a negative light which is balanced by SABC coverage.

"Is this the propaganda we're feeding our people to believe that there's nothing happening in the country? You look at it vis-à-vis the SABC's mandate - to inform, educate and entertain. So, we cannot allow the public to be continue to be misled."

Despite committing to engaging the media on the SABC issue after the event, the minister refused to answer questions.

"I've got no comment."

As she left the venue, Muthambi accused the reporters of "serving their masters".