How SABC doctors its Manto coverage

Footage of the minister, including visuals of a subsequent Sunday Times front-page story accusing Tshabalala-Msimang of being a “thief and a drunk”, were also removed from SABC TV archives.

Yesterday the Johannesburg High Court ordered Tshabalala Msimang’s medical records obtained unlawfully from the Cape Town Medi-Clinic to be returned to the institution.

Delivering the order after having reserved judgment in the case between the minister and the Sunday Times, which reported on her behaviour during a 2005 stay at the hospital, Judge Mahomed Jajbhay ordered that all the minister’s medical records on journalists’ computers be deleted. However, he said there was no order against future comments being made by the Sunday Times, as that would amount to censorship.

Manga is said to be one of the MD of News Snuki Zikalala’s closest allies.

Anyone wanting to use these visuals would have to get permission from Manga or Zikalala.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago denied that any content was being held back or that there had been any ban on its use.

“All that happened was that Snuki Zikalala said the reporters must not base their stories on what had appeared in the newspapers… all the normal processes were followed as they are always followed,” he said. The media was “creating a storm out of nothing”.

While sources conceded that footage “frequently went missing” at the SABC and while there was a R500 fine for any reporter who lost a tape, it could not be certain in this instance whether this was a case of negligence or was intentional.

The broadcaster had also been reusing the same stock images in news reports on the minister since the controversy surrounding her theft and drinking allegations broke this month.

According to the sources, a meeting was held last week at which Zikalala ordered all material relating to Tshabalala-Msimang to be handed to Manga.

Employee dissatisfaction is rife at the SABC and those working at the public broadcaster said “self- censorship levels are now so high that it has trickled down to the point that the writers know what they can and cannot say… there are certain stories a writer is too afraid to write”.

While general sentiment as far as ethics are concerned says that an editor-in-chief gets the final say in whatever is released from a newsroom, the SABC has in the past been accused of punting its own political line.

Last year controversy erupted over reports on the blacklisting of certain political commentators and CEO Dali Mpofu’s holding back from public scrutiny the report of a subsequent inquiry which found the blacklisting claims to be valid.

Concern also arose over the reporting of a rally in KwaZulu-Natal shortly after Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was appointed.

The SABC claimed not to have sent a cameraman to the event in which Mlambo-Ngcuka was booed by the crowds when she went on stage.

But competing free-to air broadcaster had footage which clearly showed an SABC cameraman present at the rally.

More recently, coverage of the African leaders at the latest SADC meeting in August did not show Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe greeted with applause by African leaders; instead it focused on President Thabo Mbeki’s role as mediator.

The message given to news desks was that the mediation process should not be compromised at any cost.

Insiders maintain that Zikalala is said to have told editors to give priority to reports involving the president and members of the cabinet.

Top-level SABC executives have also been named as having “edited” certain stories in a manner that could be considered unethical practice in a commercial media organisation.



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How SABC doctors its Manto coverage