SABC CEO Resigns Amid Censorship Controversy

| by Katie Landoll
Former SABC CEO Jimi MatthewsFormer SABC CEO Jimi Matthews

“What is happening at the SABC is wrong and I can no longer be a part of it,” wrote the CEO of South Africa’s state broadcaster, an organization mired with accusations of government-approved censorship.

On June 27, Jimi Matthews, then-CEO of the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC), posted a copy of his letter of resignation on Twitter.

In the letter, Matthews cited what he called “the prevailing, corrosive atmosphere” that led him to compromise his values.

“I also wish to apologize to the many people who I’ve let down by remaining silent when my voice needed to be heard,” he wrote.

Matthews’ resignation comes as the SABC works to fight back the controversy surrounding recent changes to its reporting policies, particularly in regards to protesting and political speech.

In May, the SABC announced that it would not show footage of any protests that involved the destruction of property. “We are not going to provide publicity to such actions that are destructive and regressive,” the organization said in a press release. “The SABC would like to stress that we will continue to cover news without fear or [favor].”

According to Business Day, the SABC also revised its editorial policy to give its COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, final say over which content is allowed to go to air.

Earlier in June, a protest against the changes took place outside the SABC headquarters, says Business Day. According to reports, the SABC instructed its staff not to cover the protests, and when three senior journalists allegedly voiced their disagreement with the order, they were suspended.

The protest in question was orchestrated by Right2Know, a campaign that advocates for free communication rights. The group has issued a list of demands to the SABC that include an end to self-censorship and Motsoeneng’s resignation.

“Millions of South Africans rely on [SABC] for information and news,” said Micah Reddy, a Right2Know organizer. “We demand critical news that is fair.”

According to News 24, Right2Know adds to growing accusations of censorship and comparisons to apartheid-era government repression of protest.

Motsoeneng dismissed the accusations, saying, ”I don’t even know what censorship is,” according to My Broadband. “What is this censorship thing? It is English so I don’t know it. There is no censorship here,” he told reporters.

Sources: Business Day, (2), Twitter, My Broadband, News 24SABC; Photo credit: SABC

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