South Africa: Cosatu Rejects SABC’s Decision to Sanitise the News

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is troubled and rejects the South African Broadcaster's decision to cease showing images of property destruction during service delivery protests. We call on the SABC board to reconsider this decision and allow the public broadcaster to tell the South African story uncensored, warts and all.

While the federation totally condemns violent protests and wants all perpetrators of such anarchy and vandalism to be investigated, prosecuted and sent to prison; we do not want the sanitisation of the news to hide the reality. It is not the public broadcaster's mandate to mask the challenges that this country is facing and gag itself from exposing people's anger including their criminality.

This decision smacks of autocracy and its deeply patronising because it assumes that South Africans are impressionable and imbecilic citizens, who need to be protected from some barbaric visuals lest they copy and repeat them.

We are not a nanny state and therefore do not need an overprotective public broadcaster to take care of us. What we have seen and learned is that , once censorship starts it never stops because those ,who are empowered to censor and impose blackouts ,start to develop bottomless sensitivities and discover more activities that they feel should not be flighted on television. The fight against apartheid was also against censorship and news sanitisation and this decision cannot be allowed to stand.

If this decision is not reversed it will signal the journey into the unknown, when public broadcaster mandarins are empowered to manipulate news coverage and blacklist organisations, individuals and communities without any transparency and accountability. The SABC needs to deepen its accountability to its audiences and to the general public.

The SABC, as a public broadcaster, must be able to operate independently from all major vested interests including party political, factional and commercial interests. South Africans deserve to have access to all the available information including the negative stories so that they can be empowered to reach their full potential as active citizens.

Source: Congress of South African Trade Unions.