More than thirty prominent South Africans have signed a petition over the SABC's decision to 'blacklist' some commentators, according to a release from the Southern African Litigation Centre. 

The release reads:

More than thirty prominent South Africans have taken a strong stance against recent allegations of “blacklisting” at the SABC. They have signed a petition directed at the management of the SABC in which they call for a clear refutation of any erosion of free speech at the public broadcaster. 

Those who have signed the petition include Tawane Kupe, Head of the School of Literature, Languages and Media Studies, Wits University; Siphokazi Mthathi, General Secretary, Treatment Action Campaign and Adam Habib, Executive Director of the Human Sciences Research Council, in his personal capacity.

The petition, printed in full below, has been handed over to Chief Executive Officer, Dali Mpofu at the SABC and calls for both an independent commission of inquiry as well as clear refutation of any “blacklisting”.

SALC Director, Nicole Fritz said the following: “The recent developments at the SABC suggest that South Africa’s public broadcaster is not committed to the value of freedom of expression in the way it should be, compromising both a core constitutional right and its own charter. The petition registers protest at these developments but as an initiative of many individuals also recognizes that constraints on the speech of some individuals impacts on the freedom of expression of all of us.”

Issued by:                    Beachhead Media & Investor Relations (Jennifer Cohen)
                                    +27 11 214 2401 / +27 82 468 6469 /

On behalf of:               The Southern African Litigation Centre
Further info:                Anton Harber
                                    Caxton Professor of Journalism and Media Studies, Wits University
                                    + 83 303 9497 /

Jane Duncan
Executive Director, Freedom of Expression Institute
+27 11 403 8403 /

                                    Nicole Fritz
                                    SALC +27 82 452 3909 /

The text of the petition:

As individuals who comment in the media on our areas of expertise and concerned generally for the value of freedom of expression, we write to express our concern over recent developments at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). In particular, there are allegations that certain commentators and analysts have been blocked from appearing on SABC stations for expressing views critical of government.

The suggestion that the SABC will only interview people who hold a particular view is an abrogation of their duties and obligations as a public service broadcaster and it is a serious infringement of freedom of expression. Furthermore, it taints us all, for it suggests that if we are quoted by the SABC, it must be because we have expressed sentiments which are politically acceptable to those who control SABC news and current affairs.

The SABC must dispel this notion quickly and clearly. They need to state clearly that any such policy is unacceptable and contrary to the organisation’s editorial charter. While we welcome Group Chief Executive Officer, Dali Mpofu's statement on a commission of enquiry, we would prefer a commission to be independent rather than internal in nature and its report and recommendations must be issued publicly.The SABC needs also to demonstrate a willingness to quote those they are accused of “blacklisting” and must refrain from taking any prejudicial action against those in their employ who have sought or seek to attest to the exclusionary or partisan actions of the SABC.

Until the SABC clearly refutes the blacklisting, it will be difficult for a self-respecting commentator, analyst or expert to agree to be interviewed. And we will be reluctant to do so until the matter is cleared up.


Thursday, 29 June, 2006