SABC's internal inquiry open to public

Image: Waldo Swiegers

The SABC's decision to hold an internal inquiry on editorial interference in-camera has been challenged in court.

Nonprofit organisation Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) filed an urgent application in the South Gauteng High Court in Joburg last week Monday demanding that the inquiry be opened to the public.

"The issue of editorial independence at the SABC is of particular interest to the public given the fact that the SABC is obliged to report news fairly and objectively without undue political interference," read the papers.

MMA also demands that the SABC must make public the schedule and details of when former and current SABC board members and executives will be appearing at the inquiry.

In its papers, MMA asked the court to declare the SABC's decision unlawful. It argued that the public have a right to be part of the proceedings because they have an interest in the matter as beneficiaries of the SABC news.

The organisation also accused inquiry chairman Dr Joe Thloloe of reneging on his undertaking that the inquiry, that started on July 2, would be open to the public.

MMA director William Bird said Thloloe told him he had not spoken to the SABC, but his prima facie view was that the inquiry ought to be open.

MMA said it also held discussions with SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini and indicated its interest to participate as observers.

Bird said in his affidavit the inquiry was commissioned after complaints that the SABC still housed individuals who are close to ex-COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

"There's also concern that these individuals may still be operating under Motsoeneng's influence or that of his political principals."

Makhathini said the reasons for not making the inquiry public was to ensure that SABC employees were assured of confidentiality when giving evidence.

MMA said it was also shocked when it heard through a media report that the ANC was set to make submissions.

"Dr Thloloe advised me that the inquiry would be closed to the public . so that people would be willing to come forward," reads his affidavit.

Thloloe confirmed that he was aware about the court application but said the matter was settled out of court.

He said he only told Bird before the proceedings started that he would prefer the commission be made public but did not make any promise.

"It was only after I had met with the SABC, and given the terms of reference that I informed him that the inquiry would be held behind close doors," he said.

Bird told Sunday World the SABC has since agreed to open the inquiry to the public.

The SABC said: "The dispute has since been settled by agreement by all the parties involved due to their shared commitment to ensuring that the public is kept informed ."

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