12 November 2012

South Africa: Reasons for SABC Blacklist Settlement Must Be Made Public

press release

The Democratic Alliance calls on the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) and the SABC to reveal the terms of the settlement in the case regarding the broadcaster's blacklisting of political commentators in 2006.

The case, scheduled to be heard by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in Johannesburg today, was withdrawn by the FXI after two years of struggling to get the case heard.

It is unacceptable that a case that is clearly in the public interest, as it regards political interference in news broadcasts that is as relevant today as it was six years ago, should be settled behind closed doors without the terms of this settlement being made public.

South Africans concerned with the suppression of diverse views by the SABC and ICASA's failure to call it to account in terms of its licence conditions, editorial policies, Charter and the Code of Broadcasters, are anxious to learn what, if any, compromises or sanctions have been decided, and their impact on these issues.

It is almost two years since the Johannesburg High Court ruled that ICASA had the responsibility to deal with the FXI's complaint about the SABC and referred the issue back to ICASA's Complaints and Compliance Committee. Delays were caused by the appointment process of a new chairperson of the committee, which was resolved a year ago.

Since then lawyers for both the SABC and FXI have struggled to find a mutually suitable date to conduct the hearing.

This was scheduled for today. A statement issued via SAPA states that the FXI and the SABC have made a settlement, that the FXI has withdrawn its complaint and its lawyers have asked for a termination of proceedings. Settlement terms were not disclosed.

Marian Shinn, DA Spokesperson on Communications

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