The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) will organise a protest at the SABC’s Johannesburg offices over the cancelling of current affairs talk show “The Big Debate”, it said on Friday.
“In protest at the continuing censorship and lack of editorial independence at the SABC, as well as the canning of The Big Debate, we are issuing a public call to protest…,” national co-ordinator Mark Weinberg said in a statement.
He said R2K was outraged that the show was being cancelled before its second season could be aired, and called on the public to participate in its protest in Auckland Park on Thursday.
“The SABC’s canning of the Big Debate smacks of political censorship and an abuse of the public broadcaster to protect certain individuals’ political interests.”
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago could not immediately be reached for comment.
He was quoted by the Mail & Guardian online as saying: “The Big Debate… was incorrectly commissioned by SABC2 and in so doing, the editorial oversight, which is the responsibility of the newsroom, was compromised.”
According to the report he said it was against the public broadcaster’s policies to outsource news and current affairs.
“Editorial responsibility for all news and current affairs content is vested in the newsroom.”
Weinberg said R2K questioned the timing of the decision to cancel the show.
“It would appear that the SABC wants to insource current affairs because the programme producers are too independently-minded for the broadcaster, and they have developed cold feet with a national election looming.”
The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) also condemned the SABC’s decision.
“Having participated in one of the sittings of the Big Debate, the FXI is displeased at the censorship of what it deems to have been a valuable programme that fostered the realisation of many aspects of the right to
freedom of expression.”
The FXI felt cancelling the show was opposed to the ideals of press freedom.