Broadcaster cans film again

Alfred Moselakgomo

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) has welcomed the SABC's decision to screen the controversial documentary on President Thabo Mbeki.

The documentary, which will be screened on Sunday on SABC3 at 9pm, was originally scheduled for broadcast last year.

But it was withdrawn because, in the SABC's words, it was "incurably defamatory" of the president.

The withdrawal raised fears that it was withdrawn because its screening might damage the SABC's relations with the presidency.

Jane Duncan, executive director of the FXI, said: "We believe that editorial changes have been made to the documentary by the producers leading to an SABC decision finally to screen it."

The changes reportedly relate to material concerning the assassination of the SACP's general secretary, Chris Hani.

The SABC had reportedly argued that the documentary could be interpreted as insinuating Mbeki's involvement in the assassination.

"Having viewed the original documentary, the FXI was of the view at the time that no reasonable viewer would have gone away with the impression that President Mbeki had any involvement in Hani's assassination and that the alleged defamation was unjustifiably "read" into the documentary by the SABC and its advisers purely by inference and not on the basis of any actual statements made," Duncan said.

The FXI was also of the view that the SABC was concerned about the critical tone adopted towards Mbeki, and that the withdrawal of the documentary constituted censorship.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago could not deny or confirm the airing of the documentary.