Lawyers for Human Rights
Lawyers for Human Rights

We all need the SABC

When you watch what is happening at the SABC you get a feeling that it’s more like Days of our Lives, today Marlena and John are married and Kate is in love with Victor and tomorrow Marlena is possessed, John is arrested and Kate is mentally ill. Things move from the good, to the bad and even the ugly in just one sitting. At times its exciting but mostly it is beyond boring. Just like the SABC politics…

Even in all of that drama, we all need the SABC. Our young fragile democracy needs a public broadcaster. We need a functioning, well-financed, independent and most importantly stable public broadcaster.

The SABC is a central component of access to information, hence the cry by its own journalists to be given the independence to carry out their jobs hit home to many of us. This fight for the SABC is not only about those that are employed by the public broadcaster but also about the need for the SABC to provide information that especially during this time of electioneering, information that will enable us to make informed decisions when voting.

The SABC is also entrusted, hence the argument for the public purse to fund the public mandate, to provide the space for people to raise their concerns and at time their approvals. It is the SABC’s mandate to ensure that South African’s have a platform to discuss and debate, robustly, the issues of the day.

Access to information and freedom of expression are central to any democracy. Just like access to education and all other freedoms protected in our Bill of Rights, the right to media access allows in the long run a greater guarantee to democracy. By merely having a public broadcaster that empowers our people by giving them means to make their demands heard on an on-going basis does not only create a robust media environment but will create a space where the powerful are held accountable.

What the SABC is trying to do now, has not only failed dismally but has also created a situation where its own legitimacy has hit an all-time low. When those SABC journalists that we looked at with envy and at times with sympathy have finally decide to stand up and fight for the credibility of the SABC. We then know, as the public to expect anything … even a black out is possible at this stage.

It’s clear that the SABC is broken … we need to start working towards a solution. We are all aware what is the problem, and it is no secret that there is political interference, who else would benefit from a broken SABC? Who would benefit from us right now to be discussing the woes at the SABC and not the different manifestos put out by different political parties? Who would benefit from journalists not doing their daily jobs, but standing outside the SABC to picket in solidarity with their colleagues at the SABC?

I don’t even think the SABC will benefit from this, it would not benefit from journalists not covering their president doing nice door to door campaigns. If it thinks this destruction benefits them, it then believes in cutting off its own nose to spite its face.

We need a solution to the SABC crisis because we all need the SABC.

By Carol Mohlala

Media and Communications Manager (Lawyers for Human Rights)