SOS welcomes the publication of the 2020 SABC Editorial Policies

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SOS welcomes the publication of the 2020 SABC Editorial Policies

3 July 2020

The SOS Coalition welcomes the publication of the final 2020 SABC Editorial Policies. SOS has consistently campaigned to safeguard the independence and integrity of the public broadcaster in the finalisation of the SABC’s Editorial Policies.

In 2016, the SOS Coalition, together with Media Monitoring Africa and the Freedom of Expression Institute challenged the unilateral changes made by then- COO Hlaudi Motsoengeng which effectively amounted to censorship as it banned SABC journalists from covering service delivery protests in the lead up to the 2016 local elections.

Furthermore, Mr Motsoeneng had made unilateral changes to the editorial policies that changed the SABC’s newsroom reporting lines to make himself, the GCOO, the Editor in Chief of SABC’s newsrooms, blatantly undermining the SABC’s editorial independence.

As a matter of principle, the Coalition believes in separating editorial from financial and management responsibilities and in this regard, SOS has always called for the role of the editor-in-chief and the principle of “upward referral” of editorial decisions in the editorial policies to remain within the authority of the GE: Head of News.

We are therefore pleased to note that in the new policies, the GCOO, who is a management executive ,  plays no role in editorial decisions and the “authority for editorial decisions is vested in the editorial staff with the Group Executive of News and Current Affairs designated as the Editor-in- Chief of all SABC News services and platforms.”[1] We regard this as a major victory championed by civil society in the public interest.

The current 2020 version of the editorial policies states that “while final editorial responsibility rests with the Group Executive of News and Current Affairs, with no upward referral of editorial decisions to the GCEO, the Group Executive of News and Current Affairs is still accountable to the GCEO for the overall performance of the news division.”[2]

We commend the SABC, for finalising these revised Editorial policies and putting into place, finally, mechanisms and policies to protect the public broadcaster from political, commercial and editorial interference. We believe the SABC’s editorial integrity and independence will be strengthened by the new Editorial polices.

ABOUT: The SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS) is a civil society coalition that advocates for the presence of robust public broadcasting in the public interest to deepen our constitutional democracy. The coalition SOS campaigns for an independent and effective public broadcaster. We engage with policy makers, regulators, and law makers to secure changes to promote citizen friendly policy, legislative and regulatory changes to public and community broadcasting public broadcasting.

For further information please contact:

Duduetsang Makuse

(National Coordinator, SOS Coalition)
+2760 911 5889

[1] SABC Editorial Polices 2020, Para 3.1.2

[2] SABC Editorial Policies 2020, Para 3.2.3