A fund set up to assist SABC journalists fired last week has been extended to help other SA news reporters, including the nine who were recently dismissed by Gupta-owned television news channel ANN7.
The fund, called the Media Freedom Protection Fund and originally set up by journalist and head of News24 Adriaan Basson, would assist journalists who needed protection from unfair labour practices and financial support.
“The aftermath of the SABC journalists has showed that journalists are not done yet. Nine ANN7 staffers are battling unfair dismissals, eTV staffers have no right to organise themselves as workers, and there are many media practitioners in the private sector who are going through the same – some face the worst situations in the workplace,” said SOS Coalition national coordinator Sekoetlane Phamodi.
He was accompanied by a few of the dismissed ANN7 staffers and two of the seven reinstated SABC journalists, Thandeka Gcubule and Busisiwe Ntuli.
The ANN7 journalists were summarily fired in June for allegedly bringing the company into disrepute after they refused to be addressed by ANC Youth League president Collen Maine at the company premises in Midrand. Maine went to ANN7 offices to speak to the workers after they wrote to the country’s banks, pleading with them to reopen the Gupta-owned companies’ accounts.
There had been several reports about ANN7 employees raising concerns about poor working conditions and low salaries. The dismissed employees have since approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
Dismissed assistant producer, Marcia Moyana, said the fund would go a long way in assisting them.
“ANN7 does not offer any benefits whatsoever to its staff. We had no pension fund or medical aid benefits. Some of us are parents, and it is very tough. We do not know how long the case would take at the CCMA, but we are happy that our fight is not in vain…we are thankful for the support,” she said.
Meanwhile, Gcubule and Ntuli said they were cordially received at the SABC when they reported for work on Thursday.
“We arrived and were received by our line manager Mr [Simon] Tebele [acting head of news]. It was emotional, glorious and peaceful at the same time. We found our colleagues wearing black in solidarity with us. Mr Tebele was professional and cordial,” Gcubule said.
Ntuli said it was mutually noted that what had happened regarding their dismissals had passed, and that “we need to move on”.
The SABC on Wednesday made a u-turn and dropped an appeal against the Labour Court judgment that ordered the reinstatement of four journalists at the public broadcaster. Seven of the eight journalists dismissed last week for publicly condemning news censorship at the SABC, were informed to report to work on Thursday.
The contract of the eighth journalist, freelancer Vuyo Mvoko, was not renewed by the SABC. Mvoko has approached the High Court to ask it to set aside the termination of his contract.
In court papers served on the SABC, Mvoko argues that the public broadcaster violated the independent contract agreement he had with them.
– African News Agency (ANA)