Wednesday, March 2, 2016

SABC bans FF Plus leader Pieter Mulder from calling in to the Afrikaans radio station, RSG, after 'a request from above'.

The Freedom Front Plus political party says its leader dr Pieter Mulder was informed by the SABC that he and party officials are banned from radio call-ins and no longer allowed to participate in programmes like Praat Saam on the SABC's Afrikaans language radio station after "a request from above".

It's the latest alleged ban by the SABC to have South Africans hear the unfiltered opinions of radio callers.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn't respond to a media enquiry asking about the FF Plus allegation, and what name list the SABC uses or wants to use to ensure that callers are not members of or affiliated to a specific political party.

City Press and The Sunday Times on Sunday reported that the SABC ordered staff to censor listeners' comments and not to allow people calling in to do "electioneering".

In written instructions the SABC said "Communication has been sent to all radio stations to stop having open lines for this current period before the local government elections" and that this is done to protect "the SABC against anybody who could potentially use the platform for their own benefit and also use it for electioneering".

The South African broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has now been asked to investigate, and on Tuesday the EFF party attacked the SABC in parliament and tried to table a motion slamming the South African public broadcaster for censoring open call-in lines.

Dr Pieter Mulder says he has been banned from participating further on the programme Praat Saam with Lynette Francis, who is a journalist, on Radio Sonder Grense. He had fromtime to time phoned in and participated in the radio phone-in programme.

"This ban [is] blatant censorship, servitude of the public broadcaster to the ANC government and a contravention of the SABCs editorial policy," says dr Pieter Mulder in a statement, noting that he was informed in a letter from the SABC that "there is a request from above" that in light of the possible election, party political officials must no longer be accommodated in phone-in programmes.

"Without a comprehensive list of all political officials being available to every phone-in program in South Africa, such an instruction cannot be enforced," says dr Pieter Mulder.

"In practice only certain political parties and individuals such as myself are discriminated against. We all pay license fees to make it possible for the public broadcaster to accommodate all views – not only those views that suit the SABC".

The non-profit organisation Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is slamming the SABC saying its open line call-in censorship decision limits freedom of expression and that it's "deeply concerning".

"Not only does this decision undermine SABC employees by suggesting that presenters and producers are unable to manage calls of a more political nature, particularly in the run up to the local government elections later in the year, but also by limiting freedom of expression, this decision undermines the South African constitution and the mandate of the SABC in promoting a diversity of views."

"What is also concerning  is that the banning  limits the SABC to the voices of only certain individuals with power. Rather the SABC, as the public broadcaster should serve all South Africans in their diversity."

"Another key concern is that editorial decisions such as these would not have been made if the public broadcaster had an up-to-date progressive, independent and innovative editorial policy in place."

"The fact that the SABC editorial policy review and updated polcieis are now 8 years overdue is not only embarrassing for the SABC but also speaks volumes about the commitment to their review and updating."

"The question we need to ask is in whose interest is the public broadcaster banning call-ins because without allowing South Africans' voices to be heard on its platforms, the SABC undermines both  freedom of expression and the citizens' right to participate in the country's democratic processes."

"This alleged decision calls for South Africans to demand an urgent investigation into these claims and call for the SABC to re-open their phones lines so that during this particularly crucial period of pre-elections our views, opinions, comments and voices can be heard," says the MMA.