In a statement on Sunday, the governing ANC said they were “concerned” about a City Press article that alleged they were trying to “bully” the public broadcaster into acceding to their views this week.
It called the report “alarmist reporting at best and malicious at worst, with the sole intention of projecting the ANC in a negative light”.
The party rejected allegations that they were trying to ensure the SABC dances to its tune ahead of elections this year, and instead claimed that ANC representatives had met with the SABC on Friday in “a one-on-one engagement with Ms Phathiswa Magopeni, the SABC’s group executive for news, to discuss matters of mutual interest and the broadcaster’s approach to election coverage”.
The statement seemed to indicate that it had not been planned that “the meeting turned out to include a number of other editorial personnel”.
ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula explained: “The meeting was meant to be a platform where perspectives were shared, so we could appreciate the SABC’s plans in the run-up to the 2019 elections. We also believe the SABC’s perspective would be enriched by our experiences and views on the critical issues. The meeting became necessary following publication of the proclamation by President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring 8 May the voting day, and the publication of broadcast regulations by ICASA. This was meant to be a precursor to a broader meeting being arranged via the group CEO of the SABC. Similar meetings are being arranged with other broadcasters.”
The party “unequivocally denied” that it had made any demands or had attempted to bully the SABC “in any way”.
“We are dismayed that a cordial meeting, where a healthy exchange of views and information took place, can be defined as bullying. We view this conduct of leaking a false narrative about a meeting with the public broadcaster as unethical and should be nipped in the bud.
“The ANC respects and actively supports the plurality of voices in the public discourse and media diversity, which are critical building blocks of an independent media. Independence of the media in general, and the public broadcaster in particular, should never be understood to mean ostracising or marginalising the ANC and its leadership.
“We will continue to engage with the SABC without fear or favour, where we believe we have been treated unfairly. The ANC will continue to fight for space to make its voice heard like any other political party and will not be cowed into silence by people who want to use it as a scarecrow.”