SABC settlement a win for media freedom

In an out-of-court settlement, Media Monitoring Africa, S.O.S: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, the SABC and the Commission of Inquiry probing allegations of editorial interference at the SABC have agreed to open some parts of the Inquiry to the public and the media.

The commission is chaired by Joe Thloloe.

In terms of yesterday’s agreement, written and oral submissions by the SABC’s current or former board members and senior executives, and those of third parties will be open to the public and the media. Other staff members and whistleblowers will continue to be protected by the confidentiality that was promised when the Inquiry was set up.

“Where a staff member wants his or her written submission to be public: he or she is entitled to make their written submission public in their private capacity and/or to give interviews on the contents of their submissions, written or oral,” the agreement states.  

“Such individual staff members will be responsible for any legal or other consequences arising from the publication of their submissions and the SABC undertakes not to invoke any confidentiality or other similar clause in their employment contracts. This does not interfere with the SABC’s rights to sue for defamation in respect of any such submissions.”

The full version of the final report prepared by the Commission will be made public and the identities of confidential witnesses may be redacted from the final report.

The full transcript of all oral hearings conducted by the Commission, save for those relating to confidential witnesses, will be made public.

The Commission’s schedule is to be open to the public. Confidential witnesses’ identities will be redacted from the schedule.

MMA and SOS had launched an urgent application that the public or the media be permitted to attend the proceedings before the Commission.

“We are delighted that following the discussions all parties have reached an agreement that in our view allows issues of confidentiality to be protected but also ensures that some aspects can be open to the public.” MMA’s William Bird said.

Duduetsang Makuse said, “Considering the much publicized turmoil that our public broadcaster has been on, as well as the long road of recovery that lies ahead, it was crucial that this process be open, transparent and inclusive of the South African public, to whom the SABC belongs.”

“We are confident that we can now move forward and get to the bottom of issues of editorial interference.” said Joe Thloloe

Read the settlement document.

Statement issued by:

Joe Thloloe, William Bird and Duduetsang Makuse

For further details please contact William Bird 082 887 1370 Or Duduetsang Makuse 060 911 5889