THE FXI'S ICASA PETITION
The Freedom of Expression's worthy, but ineffective Icasa petition has failed to attract much (if any) support from South Africa's journalists.
Is it that the media have no faith in the petition or are they too apathetic to sign it ? Perhaps The FXI has failed to publicize it widely ?
In order to strengthen The FXI's unimpressive campaign, I urge all readers of FIX THE FXI to sign the Icasa petition asap.
I believe that The SABC should immediately "SACK SNUKI". Clearly The FXI should be running a much stronger campaign demanding that The ANC is excised from all editorial decision making at The SABC. Unfortunately, The FXI does not seem to fully understand that the SABC should be completely free from political appointments. If it did, perhaps Na'eem Jeenah, spokesperson for The Palestine Solidarity Committee, would have to vacate his job at The FXI ?
To: Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa)
We, members of the South African public and listeners of viewers of various SABC services hereby bring to the notice of Icasa that we believe that the SABC has violated its founding statute, the Broadcasting Act, twelve times, its licence conditions seven times and the South African Constitution three times in the recent past.
These figures are based on the findings of the Commission of Enquiry into blacklisting and related matters which concluded its work late last year, as well as subsequent events.
We waited for the SABC Board to implement the findings of the report, but are concerned at what appears to be the SABC’s lack of appropriate response to the Commission’s findings. There is no information in the public domain on actions being taken on the measures proposed by the Commission. Instead, in a perverse twist, according to media reports, attempts have been made to issue SAFM radio anchor John Perlman with a written warning for refuting the SABC’s statement denying the existence of the blacklist. There is also no indication of whether action is being taken against the person responsible for excluding commentators, the Managing Director of News and Current Affairs, Dr. Snuki Zikalala. We have lost confidence in the ability of the SABC to address the report’s findings.
By excluding certain commentators, Zikalala’s actions have violated the Broadcasting Act’s requirement for the SABC’s public services to ‘provide significant news and current affairs programming which meets the highest standards of journalism, as well as fair and unbiased coverage, impartiality, balance, and independence from government, commercial and other interests’.
By limiting the diversity of opinion the public has access to, the SABC has also violated the provision of its licence conditions that require it to ‘provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to receive a variety of points of view on matters of public concern’. Zikalala’s conduct in giving express or inferred instructions also does not meet the highest standards of journalistic professionalism, as the SABC is required to do in terms of the Broadcasting Act and its licence conditions.
Further, failure to act on declining staff morale is a violation of the Broadcasting Act, as the SABC has failed to secure the conditions necessary for professional journalism. The allegation that Zikalala showed a Special Assignment Programme to the Presidency prior to broadcast is especially grave, as it opens the SABC up to editorial influence by the President’s office, in violation of the Broadcasting Act and the SABC’s code of editorial practice.
The statement released by the SABC on the 20 June 2006, denying the existence of the blacklist, misled us. In the process, the SABC violated the Broadcasting Act, its own Code of Practice and Icasa’s Code of Conduct for broadcasters.
We further believe that the SABC may well have violated the freedom of expression clause in the South African Constitution when it attempted to the interdict the Mail and Guardian newspaper to force it to take down a copy of the report from its website, and also with the alleged showing of a Special Assignment programme to the Presidency.
If reports about the attempts to discipline John Perlman are accurate, then this attempt could also be a breach of the Constitution, the Broadcasting Act and SABC licence conditions, as he would have been disciplined for practicing professional journalism and meeting high standards of accuracy.
We request Icasa to enforce the licence conditions and underlying statutes of the SABC, by investigating, hearing and making a finding on this complaint and on the complaint of the Freedom of Expression Institute, submitted to you on the 20 February 2007. We also request you to ensure that the SABC provides you and the public with a full report on the actions it has taken on the Commission’s findings. You must insist and ensure that the SABC desists from further contraventions of the Broadcasting Act and its licence conditions, and you should direct the SABC to take any remedial steps that you see fit to prescribe. The SABC’s conduct around the blacklisting saga cannot be condoned, as it runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Broadcasting Act.