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SABC slams media 'misrepresentation' of FXI-ICASA ruling

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) yesterday, Wednesday, 26 January 2011, slammed some media outlets for publishing 'misrepresentative' reports about the judgment by Judge Neels Claassen of the South Gauteng High Court on the matter between the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), concerning the blacklisting saga.
SABC slams media 'misrepresentation' of FXI-ICASA ruling

As the euphoria gained momentum about the news that the SABC has been called to order by the court for banning certain political analysts seen as too critical of the government and the ruling ANC, spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago quickly condemned what it called 'misrepresentation' by the media that needed to be corrected.

"Judgement not against the SABC"

"The FXI did not take the SABC to court, but rather it was a matter between the FXI and ICASA and therefore the judgement is not against the SABC but was against the regulator," Kganyago said in a statement yesterday afternoon.

"Since the FXI took this matter to the regulator a new board has been appointed, as well as a new head of news," he added.

The public broadcaster, which critics insist is manipulated and remote-controlled by the ANC-led government, said yesterday it was committed to respecting the legislation and editorial code that governs it.

Kganyago, who said the judge's ruling only made passing references to the SABC, stressed that his organisation has in this regard committed to creating an editorial policy unit to providing internal oversight and a public review of its editorial policies.

Probe matter afresh

Some observers believe the judgement further compromises the role of ICASA - branded by some as a "lame duck" regulator - and exposes its ultimate monitoring weaknesses, as it braces itself to be 'hijacked' by the state if the ICASA Amendment Bill is enacted in its current form. However, ICASA, which yesterday accepted the ruling, said it will, in line with the High Court judgment, refer the matter to the Complaints and Compliance Committee to probe the matter afresh.

The CCC will then convene a new panel to conduct the hearing, it said.

Spokesperson Jubie Matlou said the regulator would like to point out that the decision that the High Court reviewed and overturned was made by the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC), not by ICASA's Council.

"The CCC is an independent committee of Council or a Tribunal, which draws its panel from esteemed legal professionals, and it is chaired by a Judge of the High Court. The CCC conducts its business independently, and arrives at its decisions independently," Matlou pointed out.

Guns blazing

As the debate reached boiling point, various organisations have come out guns blazing, as if ready to shoot down the Auckland Park's 'Fawlty Tower'.

"This judgement confirms the longstanding view that was held by ourselves, our federation COSATU, the SACP and other concerned civil society formations that, for a long time, the public broadcaster was used as a weapon to fight factional political battles by the faction that was defeated in Polokwane," Communications Workers' Union (CWU) Matankana Mothapo said yesterday.

"These led to us referring to the phenomenon as the 'snukification' of the SABC," Mothapo said, referring to the repressive and manipulative ideology of former SABC head of news Snuki Zikalala, who some allege was former president Thabo Mbeki's yes-man.

About Issa Sikiti da Silva

Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to as a senior news writer.

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