Editorial: Another blow to freedom of press

The SABC this week fired its suspended journalists in what is arguably Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s most blatant display of contempt for the laws that govern this country.

Despite a court process under way, the journalists – now dubbed the SABC 8 – were sent packing by the public broadcaster, in what appears to be a questionable process where the most basic labour laws have been flouted.

Yesterday, the SABC fired Special Assignment executive producer Busi Ntuli as well as economics editor Thandeka Gqubule. Their sacking came hours after journalists Krivani Pillay, Foeta Krige, Jacques Steenkamp and Suna Venter were shown the door on Monday.

Vuyo Mvoko’s contract with the broadcaster has also been terminated.

In a letter to one of the journalists, Lukhanyo Calata, which was widely circulated on social media yesterday, acting general manager for TV Nyana Molete wrote that Calata’s continued acts of misconduct had become intolerable.

The move is the latest act of defiance by Motsoeneng, following public outrage about his stranglehold on the public broadcaster.

Last week, the group filed an urgent application to the Constitutional Court to have their charges declared unlawful.

We believe that their sacking while that process is yet to be concluded signals complete disregard for the law on the part of the SABC, not only as an employer but as a public institution.

Further, the decision to fire them lends credence to views that the group were targeted precisely because they spoke up against censorship and the deplorable decisions made by the management of the SABC.

Such decisions, which stem from the well-documented political interference in the editorial management of the SABC, not only undermine freedom of the press, but threaten an important pillar of our democracy – the public’s right to information.

This is why the case involving these journalists is not simply a labour dispute.

It is yet another grim reminder why Motsoeneng and his ilk have no business leading an institution so crucial to our maturing democracy.

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