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South African journalists fired for protesting decision on covering demonstrations

This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on 19 July 2016.

In response to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) firing seven staff journalists and a freelance writer, who are collectively known as the SABC 8, Freedom House issued the following statement:

"It is deplorable that the SABC fired its own journalists for insisting on covering the news," said Lynn Fredriksson, director for Southern Africa programs. "The SABC is silencing journalists who protest censorship and advocate for press freedom, while its leadership appears more interested in protecting and serving a privileged few than the public. The SABC should quickly reinstate the journalists and reverse its decision to censor news content."

Background

Seven SABC journalists and one contracted freelance journalist were fired between July 18-19 for protesting an SABC management decision not to report on violent protests, a directive issued by Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng in May 2016, ahead of violent unrest in Tshwane, the metropolitan area that includes Pretoria, the national capital. Critics of the SABC have likened its behavior to that of the Apartheid-era state broadcaster of the same name, in its use by the government as a propaganda tool.

The eight journalists say they will contest their firing in Labour Court and the Constitutional Court.

South Africa is rated Free in "Freedom in the World 2016", Partly Free in "Freedom of the Press 2016" and Free in "Freedom on the Net 2015".

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