10 October 2017

South Africa: Presidency On Statement By a Group of SABC Journalists On Meeting Between the Presidency and SABC Head of News

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

The Presidency is surprised and concerned by the utterances of the group of South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) journalists called the "SABC 8", who have objected to a recent stakeholder meeting that took place between the Acting Head of News at the SABC and the Presidency.

The Spokesperson of the President, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, met with the Acting Group Executive News, Mr Kenneth Makatees and National TV News Editor and then Acting Head of TV News, Mr Nyana Molete at the request of the SABC team. The meeting was not secret. The Presidency holds similar meetings with many journalists routinely in the day to day functions of information gathering and dissemination by the journalists. Such consultative meetings actually take place routinely between journalists from various media houses and communication professionals in the public and private sectors.

The "SABC 8" says in their statement that the routine operational meeting between the Presidency and SABC was "injudicious" and that the SABC Acting Head should "exercise more circumspection in the future and protect the newsroom from perceptions of bias". The group further calls on Mr Makatees to make the minutes of the meeting public.

The posture of the "SABC 8" group of journalists raises serious questions as it gives an impression that in their view, the Presidency should not meet with or talk to SABC journalists. It is not clear therefore, how the said journalists intend to obtain information from the Presidency if they regard meeting the Presidency and talking to officials from the Presidency as being "injudicious".

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.

The Presidency will continue to engage and meet journalists from all media houses including the SABC, as we continue with our responsibility of providing information to the public.

Members of the "SABC 8' are also welcome to contact the Presidency anytime if they need information on the work of the Presidency or government.

Issued by: The Presidency

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