The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) and the Campaign for Free Expression (CFE) are calling for the disciplinary action against SABC News Head Phathiswa Magopeni to take place openly and transparently.
Magopeni has been charged with negligence and bringing the SABC into disrepute after it broadcast a Special Assignment episode, in contravention of a court order.
Magopeni alleges that she is being targeted because she resisted attempts by the SABC Board chairperson and Group CEO to force her to carry an unscheduled interview with ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa during the recent elections.
SANEF chairperson Sbu Ngalwa says an open and transparent process will aid the SABC to dispel the perception that the process is part of a political witch-hunt.
“Obviously there are charges levelled against Miss Magopeni for allegedly bringing the SABC into disrepute. But at the time there are counterclaims by Ms Magopeni against the chairperson of the board. Also complaints against the CEO of the corporation and allegations of meddling and interference in the operations of news at the SABC. As SANEF, that is concerning to us because we know that the SABC comes from that history of political manipulation. We would hate to see the SABC go back to those days,” says Ngalwa.
Lawyers for SANEF and CFE have written to the chair of the hearing, Advocate Nazeer Cassim, to ask that the media be allowed to attend the proceedings
The CFE’s executive director Anton Harber says: “Too much is at stake for this to happen behind closed doors. Ms Magopeni has said that she is being hounded out because she has resisted political interference. We need the public to see if this is a return to the days when factional politics dominated the SABC and buried its public service mandate”.
Last week, the SABC Board said it takes seriously the grievances lodged by Magopeni against chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini and Group Chief Executive Officer Madoda Mxakwe.
The Board said the matter is being processed fairly and in accordance with SABC policies.