Monday, November 17, 2014

Civil society 'deeply alarmed' at DStv's Parliamentary Service TV channel being cut and censored for the third time in three months.

YouTube screengrab/Gwandile

MultiChoice's Parliamentary Service TV channel (DStv 408) on the DStv satellite pay-TV platform has become "must-see" television for South Africans and the world - because of what it's not showing.

The world is now watching DStv's Parliamentary Service TV channel as another example of shocking encroaching censorship, with the channel which was cut again this past Thursday for the third time in as many months - preventing South Africans from seeing what is going in in parliament.

Neither the Parliamentary Service TV channel nor MultiChoice has so far offered any explanations as to why the TV channel is not doing what its purpose it - which is showing the live events, debates and situations as it unfolds inside parliament.

Viewers are wondering what the use is of the DStv parliamentary TV channel if its blacked out and the feed cut when they want to watch it, while civil society watch groups are becoming increasingly concerned about the blatant censorship that happens every time something happens inside South Africa's parliament certain people decide they don't want the South African public to see.

Viewers got a glimpse of what actually happened inside South Africa's National Assembly on Thursday evening thanks to cellphone footage which quickly made its way onto 24-hour TV news channels like eNCA (DStv 403).

"South Africans have the right to know who gave these instructions and who should be held to account for such deeply undemocratic tendencies," says Right2Know Campaign (R2K) spokesperson Murray Hunter.

"There has been no credible explanation for the cutting of Parliament's live television feed, and no explanation can justify it," said Murray Hunter.

PEN South Africa, part of an international organisation which represents writers, editors and translators, and whose members have pledged themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression or censorship but to uphold freedom of the press, says it is "deeply alarmed" at the censorship.

PEN South Africa says it's concerned about the "serious manipulation of the TV reporting of the proceedings in parliament where the camera pictures were cut thus preventing citizens of the country from viewing the actual proceedings in the house, the unruliness of MP's and alleged assaults by police".

PEN South Africa rightly states that "the manipulation and censoring of Parliament's TV broadcasts has occured on more than one occasion in recent weeks" and is "deeply alarmed that these are deliberate and serious inroads on freedom of expression and transparency, core values which form the basis of our constitutional democracy".

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) is also protesting the censorship to have the Parliamentary TV channel on DStv cut.

has dispatched a letter to the spokesperson of Parliament, Luzuko Jacobs, protesting against the soft censorship that is creeping into the broadcasting of proceedings.

"On Thursday, the feed was cut off at a time when there were scuffles. This followed two other incidents on August 21 and last week when a member of the opposition was arguing with the Speaker ending with that Member being suspended."

"In this latter instance, the feed was manipulated to stay focused on the Speaker, thus not allowing the public to get the full picture of the on goings in the House," says Sanef.

"Sanef reiterates its call for presiding officers in parliament to ensure that there is no censorship of the debates in the house, irrespective of the content of those debates and the need for presiding officers to protect the image of the house."