Friday, July 7, 2017

Memorial for SABC journalist Suna Venter: 'We all giggled waiting for the utterances of the madman, but at least Suna lived to see the back of Hlaudi at the SABC'.

At the memorial service of the SABC journalist Suna Venter, media freedom fighters courageously spoke out about the ongoing tyranny at South Africa's public broadcaster and eloquently called for an ongoing focus and effort against censorship and oppression inside the SABC corridors where they say Hlaudi Motsoeneng enforcers remain.

Heavy caliber and staunch press and freedom of expression fighters in South Africa on Thursday afternoon used the hauntingly emotional memorial service of the SABC journalist Suna Venter who died a week ago from broken heart syndrome, to call for support for the ongoing fight for the soul of the SABC.

Media heavy weights called on the SABC that has done nothing so far about it, to launch an urgent investigation into the threats and attacks on the so-called SABC8 journalists who stood up against the SABC TV news censorship decree of the controversial and now fired former chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Refusing to go along, they were fired, harassed, threatened, went to court, were reinstated and the SABC's censorship order declared illegal by the broadcaster regulator.

On Thursday afternoon the SABC decided not to broadcast or live stream through its SABC News resources the late Thursday afternoon memorial service of one of its own held inside the SABC at the public broadcaster's M1 Studios at Auckland Park, leaving eNCA (DStv 403) as the only TV news channel providing a streaming TV feed.

While top-ranking SABC executives were notably absent, the broadcaster's acting chief operating officer (COO) Bessie Tugwana, dressed in pink, was spotted stoically sitting and listening among the gathered mourners.

The courageous SABC's economics editor Thandeka Gqubule, one of the SABC8, welcomed the now eNCA prime time anchor Vuyo Mvoko - also one of the SABC8 journalists and who got fired by the SABC - back to the public broadcaster.

"Welcome back to the SABC, Vuyo," she said.

"It looks and feels very weird that I'm back inside the SABC," he said. "It's weird that eNCA, a private broadcaster, is live streaming this event to South Africa, right from within the SABC."

SOS Coalition: SABC must investigate SABC8 threats
Duduetsang Makuse, national coordinator of the SOS Coalition, the large civil society public pressure group dedicated to proper public broadcasting in South Africa, spoke at Suna Venter's memorial and said that "wild scale injustice" continues to flourish at the SABC.

"The SABC has a lot to answer for. At the time that Suna received threats on her life, the SABC was dismissive and callous in its response".

"The SABC statement by spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago at the time noted: 'Our message is very clear that this is a matter for the police. If the police will not do what they must do, then this has nothing to do with the SABC."

"No member of the SABC8 has received a formal apology for the offensive response and the behaviour of the then SABC board and senior management," said Duduetsang Makuse.

"We are also not aware of anyone being held accountable for any of the threats that were made against the group. We know that Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his enforcers - even though he has left, are still in place at the SABC."

"We know that too many others are being threatened. Many other journalists and other members of society are fearful of speaking the truth."

"There must be an investigation into the threats against her and others of the SABC8, so many named and unnamed other media workers as well."

"It's absolutely imperative that one of the actions the new SABC board must take, is to investigate the SABC's complicity in the threats, and to ensure that those behind the harassment and intimidation are identified and held accountable," said Duduetsang Makuse.

'The fight is not over. Oppressors never give up.'
The veteran journalist and highly respected SABC interim board deputy chairperson Mathata Tsedu said "what Suna Venter and the rest of the SABC8 were faced with, is not a new fight. That they were able to come back to work doesn't mean that victory was attained".

"Freedom is never won. It's defended," he said.

"When I heard that Suna had died, I thought to myself: Did I do enough? Did we as a people do enough to defend this freedom that we have?"

"And I said to myself, I didn't. We were all giggling and waiting for the next unimaginable utterances of the madman Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Meanwhile this asset, the SABC, was going down - until Suna and the SABC8 said this far and no further, whatever the price is."

"They were able to come back. Many more were not able to come back here. They were paid off and told to bugger off," said Mathata Tsedu.

"If there is a lesson in all of this and in Suna Venter's life, it is that each one of us must understand that in this wheel of change that must happen in South Africa, in the change that must propel us forward, there is a piece in that wheel where only my shoulders plug in."

"The fight is not over. Oppressors never give up," said Mathata Tsedu. "Hlaudi Motsoeneng was trying to get into Nasrec two days ago, claiming to be an ANN7 (DStv 405) analyst. So they never give up."

"At least Suna Venter lived to see the back of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, here [at the SABC]. Even if we have failed in many other respects, there are things that we have put in place that all of us as a nation need to help propel forward."

"I hope Suna, little one, that wherever you are, in whatever has been said here, you are able to recognise yourself."

Editor's Forum: Too many silent as they giggled at Hlaudi
Mahlatse Gallens, chairperson of the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said that "our hearts are broken that 23 years into democracy, we are fighting against censorship".

"It's exactly a year ago that we stood outside this very building, protesting against the tyranny that has befallen the SABC".

"The SABC is way too big and way too important to our democracy to fail. Suna forced those who decided to sit idly by and be complicit in the tyranny to finally do the right thing. Too many were silent as we struggled and they giggled as Hlaudi Motsoeneng was saying whatever stupid things he was saying," said Mahlatse Gallens.

"While those who thought that they could end independent journalism within the public broadcaster are slowly starting to be held to account, we know that the journey will be long, it will be hard, and it demands all of us to be Suna Venter."

Vuyo Mvoko said "to SABC journalists who have finally found their voices, it's never late. Thank you for doing whatever you could do. Keep standing up. Keep pushing back. It's the only way we can defend our hard-won freedoms."