On 27 November 2021, the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has learnt of the SABC’s decision to bring disciplinary action against its head of news Phathiswa Magopeni for alleged negligence and bringing the public broadcaster into disrepute.
These developments come on the back of political pressure and attacks on Magopeni – from the ANC, who accuse her of being the cause of the governing party’s poor electoral performance in the recent Local Government Elections.
While we are not saying that those two issues are related, however, the timing raises eyebrows and suspicions of a possible politically motivated witch-hunt.
The SABC has the responsibility to investigate the violation of a court order after an episode of the investigative programme Special Assignment was aired, six weeks after the court ordered that it should not be broadcast.
The media is not above the law, and court decisions must be respected. Any responsible company would do that.
We understand that the public broadcaster was interdicted on 14 September by the North Gauteng High Court from airing and/or broadcasting and/or publishing a Special Assignment investigative report exposing alleged anti-competitive conduct in the towing industry. While the interdict was still in force, the episode was broadcast a month and a half later, in breach of the court order. The public broadcaster is facing a contempt of court order and possible imprisonment of those who took the decision
SANEF does not condone the breach of the court interdict and always advocates for respect for the court processes in this country.
That is why we are calling for openness in the handling of the matter. Given that the waters have been muddied by the blatant political attacks on Magopeni and the SABC, over their coverage of the 1 November elections, we call on the SABC management to make Magopeni’s hearing public, in the interests of transparency. This will assist to dispel any perception that the process is a witch-hunt aimed at achieving political ends.
Magopeni has been the subject of personal attacks from some ANC leaders, including the recent criticism by Transport minister and ANC’s head of elections Fikile Mbalula.
The SABC is too important to fail or to find itself dragged back to the dark days of political control and manipulation.
It is only fair that the SABC management demonstrates to all South Africans that their actions are motivated by nothing other than the need to ensure that the good name of the public broadcaster is not dragged through the mud.
We will keenly follow this case to its natural conclusion.
Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.
For more information please contact:
Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Chairperson (073) 404-1415
Adriaan Basson – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 562-2113
Mahlatse Mahlase – Secretary General (083) 399-2852
Nwabisa Makunga – Treasurer (082) 555-1972
Asanda Ngoasheng – Western Cape Convenor – 082 610-9374
Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334
Katy Katopodis – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (082) 805-7022
Chiara Carter – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (082) 659-9162
Reggy Moalusi – SANEF Executive Director (071) 682-3695