National 29.7.2016 05:01 am

Faith Muthambi calls commercial media ‘arrogant’

Minster of Communications Faith Muthambi. Picture: Gallo Images

Minster of Communications Faith Muthambi. Picture: Gallo Images

She said she had no idea why anyone would think the SABC might be practising censorship, although she admitted she didn’t know what it ‘meant’.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has accused journalists working for commercial media of being arrogant and serving their masters.

She hurled these utterances at a group of journalists waiting for comment on the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s ruling around censorship at the SABC – and the recent reinstatement of seven of its journalists who were previously axed for speaking out against the broadcaster’s editorial policy not to show the destruction of public property during violent protests.

The minister has largely kept mum over the SABC and previously showed support for its policy.

Muthambi was approached for comment on the sidelines of a community newspaper breakfast in Pretoria yesterday. During a question-and-answer session, a journalist asked Muthambi about the broadcaster’s censorship. Declining to comment directly, she alluded to addressing the journalists outside. But this did not happen, as she was swept away from the waiting journalists.

She ignored the media, who insisted on an answer to the initial question.

“No comment,” Muthambi told them.

In her initial address, Muthambi said of the ANC and the local government elections next week that this was a “critical moment of our lifetime where we are cross-cutting [sic] the country trying to get more votes because there is another party on our case”. She meant the DA.

“There are good policies in place,” she said of government. “There has been hype, and people are saying where is the minister? Why is she so quiet?”

Muthambi said it was not as if she didn’t know what was happening and didn’t know “the meaning of censorship”, echoing a similar comment by SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng that has been widely lampooned.

A situation could not be allowed where the public was misled, she said, adding that the SABC informed, educated and entertained. Muthambi said she had to say “up front” that she also liked the decision taken by the SABC to no longer give free publicity to newspapers. The SABC canned its radio show The Editors, in which the reading of newspaper headlines and news of the week were discussed every Sunday.

It stated that providing media houses with free airtime did not bode well for business. Muthambi added that government had done a lot “but you don’t see that on TV”.

Mainstream media undermined the public trust, created propaganda and did not show the good stories, attendees heard.

“Community media is indeed a democratic media. Commercial print media has taken a view that government doesn’t do anything,” said Muthambi.

Fund set up to help journos

A fund set up to assist the SABC journalists fired last week has been extended to help other SA reporters, including the nine who were recently dismissed by Gupta-owned television news channel ANN7.

The fund – the Media Freedom Protection Fund, set up by 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,” said SOS Coalition national coordinator Sekoetlane Phamodi.

“Nine ANN7 staffers are battling unfair dismissals, e.tv 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 situations .”

The ANN7 journalists were 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. – ANA

What happened at the SABC yesterday

  • SABC journalists Thandeka Gqubule and Busisiwe Ntuli have said they were cordially received at the SABC when they reported for work yesterday.
  • “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,” Gqubule 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 yesterday.
  • The eighth journalist, freelancer Vuyo Mvoko’s contract was not renewed by the SABC. Mvoko has approached the high court to ask it to set aside the termination of his contract. Mvoko argues that the public broadcaster violated the independent contract agreement. The SABC wants him to withdraw his public criticism of the SABC before agreeing to take him back. – ANA

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