South African Broadcaster to Review Ruling on Protest Visuals

South Africa’s public broadcaster will consult its lawyers about the communications regulator’s ruling that it should withdraw a resolution not to show images of violent protests.

“We will take this matter to review -- what we are not going to do is to retract the decision; retracting means you accept the ruling,” South African Broadcasting Corp. Chairman Mbulaheni Maguvhe told reporters in Johannesburg. Freedom of speech and information doesn’t mean the SABC should expose children to visuals that would see them become “hooligans and irresponsible citizens,” he said. The company has five days to respond to the regulator.

The broadcaster has come under fire from civil-rights groups, opposition parties and many of its own journalists, after its management banned the screening of footage of protesters destroying property because it didn’t want to encourage violence. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa told the broadcaster Monday it will recommend punitive measures if the SABC doesn’t withdraw its decision, eNCA reported, citing Icasa. The company operates four television channels and 22 radio stations, giving it by far the biggest reach of any South African media outlet.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s office is in the process of writing letter to communications minister and the SABC’s board to discuss the latest developments at broadcaster, Eyewitness News reported. Jackson Mthembu, the ruling African National Congress’s chief whip in parliament, last week described the SABC’s current leadership as “lacking” and said the party hasn’t sought to influence news coverage at the broadcaster.