South Africa: Top Journalist Accuses Broadcaster of Censorship

Screenshot of a tweet by Samkele Maseko.
19 December 2019

Cape Town — Political reporter Samkele Maseko says eNCA is guilty of large scale bias in its news coverage following his departure from the news channel, IOL reports. Maseko alleges that Kanthan Pillay, the news chief of eNCA, is responsible for the censorship. eNCA is a 24-hour news service owned by e.TV that focuses on South African and African news stories.

Maseko vs Pillay

In his Twitter post, Maseko responded to a tweet by Pillay. In a now-deleted post, Pillay wrote of "Rats swimming towards a sinking ship", apparently in light of Maseko's decision to join the public broadcaster, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). The SABC has faced financial turmoil through 2019, having received an initial U.S.$146,522,330 tranche of a U.S.$216,294,869 bailout in October of this year to mitigate its cash flow crisis.

Maseko also tweeted:

"Do want me to speak about how you threw me out of the eNCA building like a dog who had stolen something? How you came to my desk and said I should pack my shit and follow you to HR? You are heartless and unethical by denying some a chance to serve a notice period."

"The disrespect you have for an African Black Child is appalling, you have no sense of appreciation none whatsoever. We are not here to play politics and settle political scores with the EFF like you are doing. Busy sensoring political talk and instructing things to taken of air. Grow up and stop being bitter."

Maseko shared his alleged treatment by Pillay after his resignation sparked outrage on social media, with former eNCA employees, celebrities and politicians coming to the political reporter's defence.

Reactions to Maseko's exit

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela tweeted:

"The future belongs to those with emotional, intellectual and social agility. @enca, the news on the alleged treatment of #SAMKELEMASEKO suggest a lag in these competencies. Take the nation and world into your confidence. Was #Samkelo treated as callously as he alleges?"

Radio personality DJ Fresh commented on his experience with Pillay in a tweet that read:

"His becoming hands on at YFM was the reason I jumped ship, and why it was so easy to leave!!! He is not a nice person at all... #PeopleQuitManagersNotBrands"

A statement by opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters read:

The EFF condemns the eNCA for its racist treatment of African journalists. In a tweet, one of its managers called a journalist Samkele Maseko a rat on social media, after firing him ... South Africans must unite in totally boycotting eNCA, both from watching it and attending to its news requests and events.

eNCA under fire?

No stranger to controversy, Pillay - who founded the Capitalist Party of South Africa and contested the 2019 elections on what EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi described as "a reactionary ticket" - has a history of divisive tweets, which raised questions over his suitability to assume the post of former director of news Ben Said, who drowned while on holiday in Mozambique.

Maseko's departure from the station is the latest in a series of high profile exits from eNCA which saw the likes of Mapi Mhlangu, Erin Bates and Leigh-Anne Jansen leave the news channel over the course of 2019.

Update: Pillay subsequently issued an apology for his treatment of Maseko in a series of tweets that read:

I hereby express my unreserved apology to all who were offended by my irresponsible and ill-conceived statement on Twitter, posted on Tuesday, 17 December 2019.

I deeply regret the statement I made and retract it in its entirety.

I regret further and apologize unreservedly for

1. The offence caused to all and specifically to Mr Maseko, the SABC and the Management of eMedia.

2. The action I took in haste and without thinking, which now places my Employer, my Colleagues, my Family and my Friends in a most embarrassing position.

1. . My actions were irresponsible and unbecoming of a Senior Manager in any newsroom.

2. The statement I made is unacceptable and rightfully rebuked by all concerned.

3. In the next few days, the matter will be further discussed and investigated, and whatever the outcome, will be binding on me.

I regret having been drawn into a twitter war and I ask for your understanding with the knowledge that I deeply remorseful of my actions.

Thank you

Kanthan Pillay

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