I banned coverage of violent protests to protect public property - Hlaudi

Hlaudi Motsoeneng at the state capture inquiry
Hlaudi Motsoeneng at the state capture inquiry
Image: Masi Losi

Former SABC chief operations officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng stands by the decision he took to ban the public broadcaster from covering violent protests in May 2016.

Giving testimony before the deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo on Wednesday, Motsoeneng said that he took that decision as an individual and was guided by the Broadcasting Act.

“Chairperson, as the COO of the organisation, it is my role to take such decisions. I took that decision… and I stand by that decision. Wrong or right, you will have your findings because I think I did the right thing for the SABC,” said Motsoeneng.

“I consulted [then acting group CEO] Jimmy Matthews, I consulted [former board member Dr [Aaron] Tshidzumba but we agreed on that.”

Barring the coverage of violent protests was one of many controversial decisions Motsoeneng took during his controversy-ridden tenure as COO of the SABC. He was accused of running the broadcaster with an iron fist, accused by many of being merciless who defied him by electing to perform their duties as per the precept of broadcasting and SABC's long-standing principles and practices.

Eight journalists, who later became known as SABC8, got fired after they spoke against the protests ban, which they said at the time was unwarranted editorial interference.Asked where anyone who did not comply with this decision, including the SABC8, had to be disciplined. Motsoeneng replied: “Not at all”.

He said he took that decision as he did not want to discourage people from continuing to destroy public property.

“People were calling us [that] they were marching to SABC because when they see Free State is burning, Gauteng starts. So they were saying ‘no you have covered Gauteng, you have covered that one you didn’t cover us’; so we were just saying that no this one we can’t, we were just discouraging people,” said Motsoeneng.

He was also at pains explaining that following this decision, SABC reporters were allowed to cover protests but they were asked to be responsible with their visuals.He said they were not allowed to show burning buildings, torched schools and violence.

"We never said they must not cover… the intention of that was that people must be responsible when reporting on that.

“We said don't show the physicality. We were not banning anything. We were just saying let us be responsible.”

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