10 October 2017

South Africa: SABC Meeting At Union Buildings 'No Secret' - Presidency in Response to SABC 8

Photo: Mike Powell/Wikipedia
The South African Broadcasting Corporation headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa (file photo).

The Presidency has raised concerns over an open letter by the SABC 8 journalists bemoaning the alleged "recapture" of the public broadcaster.

The SABC 8 - now seven after the passing of former SABC journalist Suna Venter - said a "project" to recapture the embattled SABC was afoot.This after Presidency spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga met with the SABC's acting group executive for news, Kenneth Makatees, and national TV news editor Nyana Molete last week at the request of the SABC team.

"We find that the meeting held by our acting-GE (general editor) of news with the head of the president's private office and spokesperson, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, to be injudicious and we call on our head to exercise more circumspection in the future and to protect the newsroom from perceptions of bias," the group said in a statement.

Ngqulunga - who confirmed to News24 that the meeting took place at the Union Buildings - said there was nothing untoward or unusual about it as it was normal practice for the Presidency to meet with members of the media "routinely".

He said the meeting was not a secret, and that similar meetings with journalists were important for their work.

"Such consultative meetings actually take place routinely between journalists from various media houses and communication professionals in the public and private sectors," said Ngqulunga in a statement.

Presidency worried about 'intimidation' of journalists

The Presidency also said it was concerned by the possible intimidation of "professional and independent" journalists at the SABC who may have to report to members of the SABC 8 - this due to their stance with regard to the Presidency.

"The Presidency is also concerned about the impact of the posture in the SABC newsroom and the possible intimidation of professional and independent journalists at the public broadcaster, who have no problem with speaking to government and/or any other institution whether in government or the opposition, in the quest for news or information.

"We trust that journalists at the economics desk for example, who report to one of the members of the 'SABC 8', will not feel duty bound to avoid speaking to the Presidency or to cover the Presidency in deference to the public position taken by their supervisor."

Meanwhile, News24 earlier reported that the portfolio committee on communications will meet with members of the SABC 8 and the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union to discuss the matters raised by the group.

Source: News24

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