Tumi Morake's comment about Down syndrome doesn't contravene broadcasting code: BCCSA

Tumi Morake
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The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) has dismissed a complaint against comedian Tumi Morake’s comment about Down syndrome on a comedy show broadcast last year.

On the Roast Comedy Battle aired in December 2017‚ Morake told Schalk Bezuidenhout: “You are two p*** klaps away from Down syndrome.”

The Down Syndrome Association in KwaZulu-Natal lodged a complaint against MultiChoice Channel 122‚ whihch aired the show‚ arguing that Morake’s comment was “malicious and cruel”.

“I cannot find any fibre of positive in her joke when the crux of her content is exclusively on the negative effect of such a condition‚” counsel for the Down Syndrome Association argued.

The association also argued that Morake’s joke trivialised the challenges that those with Down syndrome “experience‚ endure and must overcome on a daily basis”.

“It is evident that no consideration was accorded to the identity of the group about which the joke is told. In this case‚ the knowledge of the vulnerable‚ marginalised‚ disenfranchised and subordinate group of persons with Down Syndrome used as material for jokes is morally unacceptable and problematic‚” the association said.

In response to the complaint‚ MultiChoice conceded that Morake’s comments were offensive.

“We therefore apologise to the complainants and confirm that immediately after receipt of the complaints MultiChoice instructed the channel to suspend the broadcast of the Roast.”

MultiChoice argued that‚ while it conceded Morake’s comments were in bad taste‚ they did not contravene the provisions of the Broadcasting Code.

The BCCSA ruled that it could not find a contravention based on ethics and morals as argued by the association. The BCCSA also found that clause 28.4 of its Code of Conduct‚ on which the association based its argument‚ did not apply.

“We find that clause 28.4 cannot be applied to a comedy programme like the one under discussion. Freedom of expression‚ in this instance and judged in the context‚ is not trumped by the protection of dignity‚” the BCCSA found.

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