‘Parliament breached constitutional obligations by not probing SABC 8 issue’: lawyer

SABC television studios in Auckland Park. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND
SABC television studios in Auckland Park. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND

The SABC journalists who were fired and then reinstated want the Constitutional Court to order that the National Assembly and Parliament’s portfolio committee on Communications breached the Constitution.

This is raised in a further supplementary affidavit submitted to the court this week.

The group‚ dubbed the SABC 8‚ had offered to make presentations to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications regarding the issues at the SABC‚ but the committee met without giving them an opportunity to do so‚ their lawyer‚ Aslam Moosajee of Norton Rose Fulbright‚ said.

“The portfolio committee refused to engage in a proper investigation into the issues at the SABC and the SABC 8 is requesting the Constitutional Court to declare that the National Assembly and the portfolio committee breached their obligations in terms of section 55 (2) of the Constitution to ensure that the SABC is accountable to the National Assembly and to maintain oversight over the SABC‚” he said.

The SABC 8 also want the court to direct the National Assembly‚ within one month of the court’s order‚ to institute an inquiry into issues raised.

The move not to broadcast footage of violent protests has been at the heart of the recent problems at the broadcaster‚ amid allegations that controversial chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng was censoring news and purging those who disagreed with him.

The decision was widely condemned and found to be invalid by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa)‚ which ordered the broadcaster to reverse it. The SABC said it would comply with the Icasa ruling.

Earlier in July‚ the broadcaster fired a group of eight journalists after they publicly opposed the banning of showing violent protests. Following a brief court battle‚ the SABC announced publicly that all but one of the journalists would be reinstated.

Moosajee on Tuesday said his clients were of the view that the “unlawful conduct” at the public broadcaster has continued and so they have decided to go ahead with their Constitutional Court application.

“While seven of the SABC 8 have been reinstated and while the SABC has purported to accept that the protest policy is unlawful‚ the SABC 8 are of the view that the unlawful conduct at the SABC continues to persist‚” he said.

In the further supplementary affidavit‚ the SABC 8 claimed that Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and the public broadcaster have continued to defend the policy to ban the protest footage and that the culture of censorship continued.

They also claimed that the culture of fear in the newsroom at the SABC continued.




Leave a Reply