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SABC journalists allegedly intimidated by political party representatives, opposition parties concerned over SABC board's appearance before Parliamentary Portfolio Committee

(MISA/IFEX) - The following is a MISA press release:

SABC to appear before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is due to appear before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications on Tuesday, 18 November 2008. The SABC Board is expected to respond to allegations of incompetence. Last year, the Portfolio Committee passed a vote of no confidence on the Board, saying it is failing to meet its mandate of effectively governing the public broadcaster.

A number of media reports have alleged that the SABC Board is arrogant in its approach to managing the SABC and that it abuses its power in administrative decision making. The SABC Board Chairperson, Kanyi Mkonza, dismissed the reports as part of a campaign to undermine the Board.

MISA-SA Chapter Position

MISA-South Africa (MISA-SA) Chapter also notes with concern allegations that SABC journalists, and especially the editorial team, is being intimidated by political parties as South Africa prepares for the general elections in 2009. As a media freedom advocacy organisation, MISA-SA Chapter certainly takes these allegations of intimidation seriously and wants to caution all South African political parties to allow media freedom and fair reporting during the upcoming elections. Some of the SABC workers reported having been sent text messages and having been called by political party representatives, threatening them and forcing them to report favourably towards certain political parties. Some opposition political parties are concerned that the SABC's appearance before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications will once more be an opportunity for the African National Congress (ANC) ruling party to abuse its majority power to axe the Board based on no clear reasoning. Whether individual Board members or the whole Board is axed, MISA-SA Chapter urges the Portfolio Committee to make this decision based on fairness and due course as stated in the Broadcasting Bill.

MISA-SA Chapter is part of the Civil Society Coalition that facilitates the Save Our SABC (SOS) Campaign. The campaign's aim is to lobby for the review of the Broadcasting Bill to ensure that the SABC is accountable to the public. The Coalition will be launching a road show in 2009 to get the input of South Africa's citizens on the SABC Charter.

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