The ruling African National Congress (ANC) should not be given airtime if it has nothing new to say, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) told an inquiry looking into allegations of editorial interference at SABC in Johannesburg on Monday.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told inquiry chairperson Joe Thloloe that news should not be handled like advertising.
“For example, the President [Cyril Ramaphosa] might do his morning walks, and you tell me everyday about the walks? That is not news … I cannot wake up to that everyday and that this time he is walking in Khayelitsha … that is no longer news,” Ndlozi said.
Last week, the ANC’s Zizi Kodwa told the inquiry the governing party should be allocated 60% of the coverage among all parties. Ndlozi said the proposal was biased.
“It is such attitude that points to arrogance and entitlement, coming from a person who is not even a member of Parliament. It boils down to marketing of a political party, not news. Something is not news worthy only because it has 60 percent or 1 percent representation in Parliament,” Ndlozi said.
“If news should be fair, balanced and critical, it cannot use proportional representation. News must remain in the orbit of journalism … a journalist goes out to seek the truth, not a 60% news coverage for the ANC.”
He said as a new political party, the EFF was being marginalised at the SABC, more especially before and during the 2014 general elections.
“When former head of news Jimi Matthews left the SABC, he publicly stated that a decision was taken to block EFF coverage. When other media such as the eNCA, Al Jazeera and Son invited the EFF to speak at their platforms, the ANC saw EFF as a nuisance, and banned the CIC [commander-in-chief] Julius Malema and the EFF, as said by Matthews … we cannot be discriminated against because we’re seen as a nuisance.”
Matthews admitted to censoring the EFF while he was at the public broadcaster, and that he took the decision, but not alone. Instructions came from the former disgraced chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who, along with certain individuals in the ANC, were of the view that Malema should not be given coverage, Matthews said in an interview.
Thloloe asked Ndlozi if there was any evidence that showed the ANC “called the shots at the “SABC”.
Ndlozi responded that he doubted there was anything on paper or a recording to prove such interference by the governing party and some SABC editors.
“That is why I think you could be setting yourself [up] for failure. This was done in a way that it ought not leave a trace, it is not even an ANC resolution, but Matthews’ explicit statement proved that. One way to get to the bottom of it is through confessions by those in the higher echelons at the SABC, because it is very difficult to get people to reveal such information.”
He advised Thloloe to invite Matthews to the inquiry.
Ndlozi said EFF news coverage at the SABC improved in 2016, including during the local government elections.
The SABC established the inquiry as it set itself on a path to cleanse itself of its scandalous past few years during the tenure of former communications minister Faith Muthambi, Motsoeneng and the previous board.