SABC pleads for ‘safe space’ after reporters get death threats
The intimidation of journalists, much of it on social media, is ‘weakening its ability to report courageously‚ fairly and comprehensively’
The SABC has condemned threats directed at its journalists‚ saying they need a “safe space” in which to work without intimidation.
The public broadcaster said it was extremely concerned about “death threats” aimed at its reporters‚ and added that “political and corporate bullying” remains pervasive‚ some of it on social media platforms.
“The SABC takes the threats seriously and wants to put on record that these acts go against its constitutionally guaranteed freedom to perform its duties without hindrance‚” said Phathiswa Magopeni‚ group executive of news and current affairs.
“The continuing intimidation of our journalists‚ who are committed to delivering untrammeled news and current affairs content to the SA public‚ is, in itself, a threat to the public mandate in as far as safeguarding and strengthening the country’s democracy through critical watchdog journalism‚” she said.
“These are deliberately intended to weaken our ability to report courageously‚ fairly and comprehensively on all matters of public interest.”
SABC spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu said that the response was prompted by threats made generally on Twitter and other social media platforms‚ and not because of specific instances of intimidation of any one journalist.
“It is general hate speech on social media that has prompted this response‚” she said. “If the public has any issues with the manner in which the SABC goes about reporting on important matters‚ we urge people to take their complaints to the relevant authorities‚” she said.
“Where there is evidence of legislative and regulatory contravention‚ or complaints of unfair coverage‚ the public is encouraged to raise these directly with the SABC‚ or approach relevant institutions such as the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa)‚ the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA)‚ and the Press Council of SA (PCSA).”
She said that the threats against broadcasting staff made it difficult to effectively provide the public with accurate news.
“The SABC is sincerely appealing to the public to give its journalists a safe space to do their work‚ in a manner that guarantees transparency‚ accountability and inclusiveness‚” she said. “This can only be achieved when the environment is conducive to ensuring plurality in the voices featured in its news content‚ indiscriminately and without prejudice.”
In 2016‚ a group of SABC journalists labelled the “SABC 8” received death threats after protesting against censorship by then COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.