Nontobeko Sibisi, in a public letter to colleagues, lashed out at eNCA management, saying a sub editor told her that her story on Africa Day will not be broadcast and was dumped because she appears in it with a doek.
eNCA's shocking self-censoring ironically comes less than a week after eNCA's editor-in-chief Anton Harber slammed the SABC's decision to self-censor public protest coverage and said that people have a right to the full story. "We need to respect the intelligence of our audience and viewers," said Anton Harber.
Trend wise, Nontobeko Sibisi's letter interestingly comes, and continues, the new trend where news channel staff - some at eNCA over the past few months and several more occuring at Infinity Media's Gupta-owned ANN7 (DStv 405) - have berated their bosses over bad management decisions in letters that become public and damage the news channels' brands and reputations.
Nontobeko Sibisi's open letter is the latest in a string of incidents that's shedding a light on some of the persistent staff acrimony behind the scenes at eNCA where an ongoing atmosphere of unhappiness persists since eNCA's dramatic downsizing and staff exodus started just over a year ago.
In May Afrikaans reporters at eNCA for the eNuus service done for kykNET (DStv 144) resigned amidst claims of alleged bullying by a superior in the newsroom. Two are now going to return and the executive has been moved away with Freek Robinson taking over as acting head.
Over several years, and a continuing occurence on the channel, eNCA reporters have often embedded and made themselves part of the story - sometimes too much a part - with reporters who have appeared in a speedo while another even dangled and draped a snake around her.
With many more examples that exist in the eNCA video archives, Nontobeko Sibisi (known for her "Nonto Cam" stylistic add-on graphics in some of her filed stories) appearing with a head covering, had her story canned because her on-air look apparently went too far for eNCA bosses.
In February this year, a now fired eNCA technical director, also slammed eNCA and one of the allegations that the Communication Workers Union (CWU) made in Modise Morobane's case was that "black reporters are not allowed to wear 'doeks' or African head scarves on-air" at eNCA.
Nontobeko Sibisi slams eNCA for the "unjustifiable unjustice that happened to me in this [eNCA] newsroom", saying "because of 9 seconds of an about three minute piece I appear wearing a doek - the story was taken off air without my knowledge."
"I was informed of this decision by a sub editor in passing."
In the story Nontobeko Sibisi interviewed musicians from South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe for Africa Day.
In the scathing letter Nontobeko Sibisi puts eNCA on public blast, slamming the news channel where she works for its alleged "lack of communication and the unprofessional channels taken" and as a place where wearing a head covering is "offensive enough to warrant a story being taken off air without any clear communicated justification".
"Some of us have been half naked on TV, in PJs, gowns, ballet tutu's, speedos, boxing gear, all fitting to a particular context – yet somehow a doek was offensive enough during a very significant and celebratory day and month in our continent," wrote Nontobeko Sibisi.
"There is unfairness, unprofessionalism, inconsistent application of the 'rules', an intentional lack of communication and and unjustifiable recourse."
"Personally this is one of the most shocking and gravely disappointing actions I've experienced at eNCA, during African celebrations - it's discomforting to watch happening in a country like ours, in an 'eFamily' newsroom, that 'encourages cultural diversity' ".
Nontobeko Sibisi said she found the incident "highly offensive" and wanted to "put it out there because this could happen to anyone and I genuinely believe we need all need to have serious, frank and open and transparent conversations".
eNCA reporter Phakamile Hlubi who herself appeared with a snake once said: "I'm appalled. This is completely unacceptable. eNCA's style guide is unAfrican and in my view unconstitutional. It needs to be rewritten".
"You can't tell me that in a country where respect for culture and religion is paramount in the constitution, an organisation can adopt a clothing policy that violates these rights".
TVwithThinus asked eNCA for comment late on Tuesday night.
Anton Harber, eNCA editor-in-chief says: "Having watched the insert, I have no problem with the headgear Nontobeko wore for her Africa Day piece".
"When I recently arrived at eNCA, one of the first things raised with me was a concern that our policy in this regard needed to be reviewed and updated".
"Our policy is a conventional television channel policy which discourages all kinds of headgear, including scarfs, alice bands, large ear-rings etc. It is clear that there are strong views on this among our staff and we have started a process to review the policy to embrace our country's diversity and the principles of our Constitution, and to give clarity on what is appropriate on air".