13 July 2016

Cape Town – The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has called on Parliament to intervene in the censorship crisis currently engulfing the SABC.Bishop Abel Gabuza, chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Commission, has asked Parliament’s communications portfolio committee to urgently reconvene to discuss the matter.

Parliament is currently in recess until after the local government elections.

“Through its editorial policy and the subsequent crisis, an impression has been created that the SABC is failing to report fully and objectively on events that have the capacity to diminish the holding of free and fair elections,” Gabuza said in a statement.

“Certainly, this is a serious matter that requires urgent intervention by the National Assembly. We urge the portfolio committee on communications to demonstrate its oversight leadership.”

Parliament and portfolio committees are allowed to reconvene during recesses under National Assembly rule 223 if a matter is deemed urgent.

‘People won’t trust election outcome’

Gabuza said he was concerned about the negative impact that such an “overdrawn crisis” would have on the elections.

“People will not trust the outcome of the elections if the dispute regarding fair coverage and censorship by a public broadcaster is not resolved,” he said.

“It is in the interests of the common good, and a matter of urgency, that public confidence in the public broadcaster be restored.”

Gabuza said he believed that Parliament had the ability to do this.

Icasa ruling

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) ruled on Monday that the SABC must withdraw its resolution to ban the broadcasting of violent protests, following a public hearing into the broadcaster’s decision held in June.

SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng on Monday said the broadcaster would take its fight against the ruling to the highest court in the land.

Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka told News24 on Tuesday that they would not be commenting on the SABC’s response until the broadcaster submitted its written reply to the Complaints Compliance Committee.

The SABC was given seven days to reply to Icasa’s order.

“Obviously, Icasa will want to know the reasons for non-compliance with the order and possibly decide on a way forward,” Maleka said.