Icasa lays criminal complaint against SABC over broadcaster’s ban on screening protests
Bekezela Phakathi | 2017-01-31 14:38:34.0
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
Image by: Waldo Swiegers. (C) Sunday Times.
The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) has laid a criminal complaint against the SABC for failing to comply with its ruling on the broadcaster’s ban on screening violent protests.
The watchdog told members of Parliament’s communications portfolio committee on Tuesday that the broadcaster had to date failed to provide proof that it had withdrawn its controversial resolution to ban the broadcast of violent protests.
Icasa ruled in July last year that the SABC had to withdraw its decision not to air footage of violent protests as it was in breach of the Broadcasting Act and licensing conditions.
Icasa councillor Nomvuyiso Batyi told the committee that despite numerous written demands to the SABC to comply with the order‚ the broadcaster was yet to submit proof regarding compliance with the July ruling. Batyi said she could not name the individuals who would be charged as the police would make the final call.
According to the Icasa Act‚ a person convicted of an offence‚ including of failing to comply with a decision made by the regulator‚ is liable to a fine of up to R1m or to imprisonment of up to a year.
ANC MP Mondli Gungubele said that it was clear the SABC had defied the regulator. He said the public broadcaster’s decision to ban the showing of violent protests was an attack on the country’s Constitution.
Late last year‚ legislators urged Icasa to penalise the SABC for failing to comply with its ruling.
The SABC announced in May last year that it would no longer broadcast footage of destruction of public property during protests as it believed showing such footage would encourage other communities to do the same.
Subsequently‚ Media Monitoring Africa‚ supported by the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute‚ lodged papers with Icasa’s complaints compliance committee to challenge the SABC’s decision.
The SABC has lurched from one crisis to another in recent times. It has no board following the resignation of all nonexecutive members last year. The crisis is largely about former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng‚ who was also behind the move to ban the broadcast of violent protests.
Parliament’s ad hoc committee looking into the mess at the SABC finalised its draft report last week and has sent it out to affected parties‚ including SABC executives and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi. The committee hopes to produce the final report before the end of February.