Thursday, August 20, 2015

SABC in damage control over Hlaudi Motsoeneng: Public broadcaster says controversial COO wanting media regulation doesn't speak for SABC.

The SABC is in damage control, now saying its controversial and famously matricless chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng gave his "personal view" when he again said this week - twice - that South African media should be regulated and that all South African journalists should be "licensed".

Yet Hlaudi Motsoeneng spoke as COO of the SABC, was invited as such, introduced as such and answered questions as the SABC's representative and second highest executive at Monday's breakfast briefing of The New Age newspaper.

He again appeared on Tuesday in parliament to which he and other SABC executives were summoned to report back, in an official capacity - not as an ordinary person but specifically because he is the COO of the SABC.

At both these events on Monday and on Tuesday Hlaudi Motsoeneng as SABC COO reiterated his comments from last year, saying on Monday that "media also needs to be regulated" and on Tuesday in parliament that "South African media need to be regulated".

On Monday, at The New Age breakfast briefing which was broadcast on SABC2 and on SABC News (DStv 404), Hlaudi Motsoeneng specifically called on SABC board member Lumko Mtimde for support for South Africa's journalists to be "regulated".

"I know Lumko [Mtimde, SABC board member] is sitting there. I'm calling all of them, who believe in me, and them, to make sure that we lobby for journalist to be regulated so that they take accountability," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng on Monday from the stage.

On Monday about the controversial Nkandla saga - president Jacob Zuma's over-priced private homestead upgraded with millions of taxpayer money with shoddy work – Hlaudi Motsoeneng said he instructed the SABC's head of news, Jimi Matthews, to zoom in with the camera to give the right Nkandla perspective.

"There were so many houses there. Long ago. But when the media talk about Nkandla, they portray the whole houses. As if those houses are new. Which is also misleading."

"I have been talking to Jimi there. To say Jimi but why can't you zoom on the new houses where government was involved. Because if you put them together, you are misleading the country."

Now the SABC, with Hlaudi Motsoeneng who keeps speaking at official events as a SABC representative, in a statement says Hlaudi Motsoeneng's calls for the press to be regulated in South Africa and for all journalists to be licensed is his own view and not that of the public broadcaster.

"Hlaudi Motsoeneng has expressed his view a long time ago and he has on several occasions repeated his position and has not in any way mentioned that this is the SABC's decision," says the SABC in a statement.

The SABC says Hlaudi Motsoeneng "as citizen of the Republichas a right to express his views as enshrined in the constitution of South Africa in respect to freedom of speech". 

The SABC says "the issues that Hlaudi Motsoeneng is expressing are not only related to the SABC journalists but to all the journalists including print media".

Prof. Mbulaheni Obert Maguvhe, chairperson of the SABC board, says "the SABC board is not in any position to discipline the COO based on the fact that he is merely expressing his view as a citizen. It is therefore not in the best interest of the SABC to be drawn into this."

On Monday, panelist and broadcaster Stephen Grootes, columnist and senior political correspondent for Eyewitness News (EWN) said at the TNA business briefing that media regulation is dangerous. 

"People who say they want to regulate have only one thing in mind: They want to control the media and that’s what we have to be aware of."

Stephen Grootes asked Hlaudi Motsoeneng: "Who licenses journalists? When do you remove a license from a journalist? What is a journalist in the first place? Is it someone who sets up a Twitter account called 'I am a Journalist'? Is that person not allowed to go and report? To analyse; report?"

"Is someone, somewhere, Big Brother perhaps, decided that you can't do that anymore because we're going to close your Twitter account because you don't have a licence?"