South Africa: IFJ demands restoration of basic workers’ rights after four SABC journalists fired

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) must respect workers’ rights, end censorship and reinstate bargaining rights to the journalists’ union. Early this week, eight suspended SABC employers, Jacques Steenkamp, Krivani Pillay, Suna Venter,  Vuyo Mvoko‚ Thandeka Gqubule‚ Busisiwe Ntuli, Lukhanyo Calata and Foeta Krige, were emailed termination letters for speaking out against SABC’s editorial policy, which the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) recently branded outrageous censorship. The IFJ has now called on the ANC – the country’s ruling party - to use its good offices to help fully restore the bargaining rights of the Media Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA) in order to protect basic workers’ rights. Earlier this month, eight SABC journalists were suspended for challenging the editorial policy introduced by the broadcaster’s chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, which banned the coverage of violent protests. The suspended journalists are currently appealing to the Constitutional Court to reverse the SABC’s editorial policies, declaring them unconstitutional. Four of the journalists that were fired on Monday night had applied to the Labour Court to reverse the suspensions. The case is due to be heard this Thursday. The four remaining journalists received termination letters on Tuesday. Last week, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) ruled that the SABC should reverse its decision to ban coverage, including visuals, of violent protests. After the ruling, Motsoening told the press that no one could tell the SABC what to do. The SABC is currently requesting Icasa review the ruling. On 11 July, the ANC held a special meeting to discuss the crisis at SABC and concluded there have been severe managerial problems under Motsoeneng. They also reaffirmed their charter, which guarantees media workers’ rights. The journalist trade union and IFJ affiliate MWASA represents approximately 700 workers at SABC, however, Motsoeneng refuses to acknowledge the union’s right to protect its members. MWASA claims that over 120 members have been fired from the SABC without disciplinary hearings. Earlier this month, Motsoeneng is said to have intimidated MWASA members in order to prevent them from going on a planned strike.  On 4 July, Motsoeneng was scheduled to meet with the union but cancelled minutes before without reason. IFJ President Philippe Leruth said: “We urge the ANC to use their good offices to ensure the rightful place of MWASA as the representative of workers at SABC is restored and that the ongoing violation of basic workers' rights, including freedom of association and freedom of expression, is ended. We stand in solidarity with our affiliate and the journalists of South Africa”. Read more about the situation in South Africa here.

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