South Africa’s Independent Communications Authority (Icasa) has ruled that the SABC’s editorial policy not to show the destruction of public property during violent protests is not in line with the Broadcasting Act.
What that means, is that Icasa’s Complaints Committee have recommended that the SABC has to withdraw its editorial policy on the matter retroactively from 3 July.
[BREAKING]: #ICASA The SABC is ordered to withdraw decision not to broadcast violent protest footage. DB
— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) July 11, 2016
The broadcaster also has to confirm in writing in seven days that the resolution has indeed been taken as ordered.
Icasa’s acting chair Rubben Mohlaloga led the briefing, starting off by explaining the nature of the complaint.
“It was argued by the complaints legal representative that it’s against the constitution, mainly freedom of expression,” he said. He also explained how the Broadcasting Act in South Africa works, which guides the majority of the investigation.
Importantly, he added that the decision by Icasa is binding in the eyes of the law.
The investigation was sparked after lobby groups Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), SOS Public Broadcasting Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) complained to Icasa about the matter.
A hearing on the matter was held on 24th June, to set out the arguments from both sides of the complaint. The results of the hearing were supposed to be made known on Friday, but were postponed until today.
William Bird, Director of MMA, said in the organisation’s original complaint that it believes the editorial decision by COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng to be in breach of the law.
“We believe the decision to be unlawful and in clear violation of the Broadcasting Act, the SABC’s licence conditions and the SABC’s revised editorial policies,” he said at the time.
But the SABC’s counsel hit back, saying that Icasa has no power to interdict the SABC or force it to reverse its decision. It added that Icasa’s compliance committee can only investigate and make recommendation to the Icasa Council – but that is the extent of it.
“The complainants are like preachers who distort verses for their own ends. Common sense dictates that once people see cameras, they get excited. People don’t reason,” the SABC argued.
[Image – Twitter/Jacaranda News]