Presidency speaks out on SABC 8 statement

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Presidency says it is surprised and concerned by the utterances of the group of South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) journalists, called the SABC 8, regarding the routine operational meeting between the Presidency and SABC.

This follows a letter written by the SABC 8 to Parliament regarding the state of affairs at the public broadcaster. The letter was addressed to the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, Humphrey Maxengwana.

In the letter, the SABC 8 raised concern over the meeting between the Presidency and the SABC, saying it “was injudicious and that the SABC Acting Head should exercise more circumspection in the future and protect the newsroom from perceptions of bias".

The Presidency on Tuesday, however, responded, saying the meeting was nothing out of the ordinary.

“The spokesperson of the President, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, met with the acting Group Executive: News, Kenneth Makatees,National TV News Editor and then acting Head of TV News, Nyana Molete, at the request of the SABC team.

“The meeting was not secret. The Presidency holds similar meetings with many journalists routinely in the day to day functions of information gathering and dissemination by journalists,” said the Presidency.

It said such consultative meetings take place routinely between journalists from various media houses and communication professionals in the public and private sectors.

The Presidency said the SABC 8 has objected to a recent stakeholder meeting that took place between the Acting Head of News at the SABC and the Presidency.

The SABC 8, in the letter, further called on Makatees to make the minutes of the meeting public.

The Presidency said the posture of the SABC 8 raises serious questions, as it gives the impression that in their view, the Presidency should not meet with or talk to SABC journalists.

“It is therefore not clear how the said journalists intend to obtain information from the Presidency if they regard meeting the Presidency and talking to officials from the Presidency as being injudicious.”

The Presidency said it is concerned about the possible intimidation of professional and independent journalists at the public broadcaster, who have no problem with speaking to government and any other institution, whether in government or the opposition, in the quest for news or information.

“We trust that journalists at the economics desk, for example, who report to one of the members of the SABC 8, will not feel duty bound to avoid speaking to the Presidency or to cover the Presidency in deference to the public position taken by their supervisor.”

The Presidency said it will continue to engage and meet journalists from all media houses, including the SABC, as it continues with its responsibility of providing information to the public.

It said members of the SABC 8 are also welcome to contact the Presidency anytime if they need information on the work of the Presidency or government. -