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Broadcast journalists claim intimidation from political parties

(MISA/IFEX) - Journalists from the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) said they are experiencing intimidation as the country draws closer to the most bitterly contested elections in recent history, wrote Jocelyn Newmarch in "Business Day" of 5 December 2008. The elections are due to take place in 2009.

The broadcaster's group chief of news and current affairs, Snuki Zikalala, told "Business Day" on 4 December that the last time its journalists were intimidated was during the period leading up to the country's first democratic elections in 1994.

He did not name particular political parties, but said the threats were received "across the board".

He said threats should be immediately reported to the editorial team and to both the Independent Electoral Commission and the Independent Communications Authority, which lay down rules for election coverage.

News of the intimidation first came to light three weeks ago when the SABC announced that journalists had complained at a meeting attended by board members and senior editors.

Zikalala said the SABC had offered to provide security to journalists, but so far these offers had been declined.

The intimidation had played a role in the SABC's decision to appoint an internal complaints officer, TV News managing editor Zolile Majova, who would liaise with political parties.

"It's a fair thing that we should have so that editors are not intimidated overnight," he said, explaining that editors had been on the receiving end of complaints until now.

When asked to respond to criticism that SABC journalists were seen as supporters of the African National Congress or the Congress of the People, Zikalala said, "In a highly political situation, you can't expect (journalists) not to be members of political parties, but you have to be able to cover stories in a critical, objective manner. It's not in the interests of the SABC to have a political affiliation."

Zikalala also said the SABC would continue to place advertorials about its election coverage in major newspapers.

For more information on previous threats received by SABC journalists, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98587

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