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By Ahmed Areff
Johannesburg – The High Court interdict against the SABC’s policy to not show footage of violent protests will be used in Thursday’s Labour Court case in which four of the employees that were fired by the broadcaster will be challenging their dismissal.
“It would impact our case because to a certain extent the SABC and court are of a view that the current policy is unlawful,” the lawyer for the four employees, Solidarity’s Anton van der Bijl told News24.
“Therefore anything that follows from that policy, such as the disciplinary hearings, the suspensions and the dismissals are unlawful and unconstitutional.
“Our priority [in the Labour Court] is that the dismissals and suspensions be set aside and that they go back to work.”
The SABC this week sacked journalists for disagreeing with a decision to censor coverage of protests before the disciplinary cases against some of them had been concluded.
Seven SABC reporters were fired this week. The eighth person was freelance journalist Vuyo Mvoko, whose contract was terminated.
Surprise move by SABC
It emerged on Tuesday that the broadcaster had fired Busisiwe Ntuli, a specialist producer for investigative programme Special Assignment, and Lukhanyo Calata, an SABC journalist in Cape Town. Economics editor Thandeka Gqubule confirmed later that she had also been sacked.
Four others – Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp – were informed of their axing on Monday. They are the employees approaching the Labour Court on Thursday.
All eight reporters have applied for direct access to the Constitutional Court. They recently updated their urgent application requesting the court to intervene over their dismissals. The journalists, dubbed the “SABC 8”, initially approached the court on Friday to have the SABC’s conduct and the charges against them declared “unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid”.
The Helen Suzman Foundation and the broadcaster reached an agreement on Wednesday which saw the High Court in Pretoria interdicting the broadcaster from enacting its policy.
The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) ruled on July 11 that the SABC had to withdraw its resolution, announced in May, to ban the airing of footage of violent protests.
SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng initially said after the ruling that no one could tell the SABC what to do and that they would challenge Icasa’s decision in court. However, in a surprise turn Icasa said on Wednesday afternoon that the SABC agreed to comply with the ruling. – News24
Solidarity media statemtnt
Trade union Solidarity will today request the Labour Court to set aside the decision to dismiss the SABC journalists and to revoke the disciplinary process in its entirety, pending the rulings given in the various legal processes against the controversial censorship decision taken by the SABC’s Chief Operating Officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Solidarity is representing Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp. The other journalists’ cases are being handled by their own trade unions and legal teams.
Solidarity will also request that the SABC establish who in the organisation was responsible for the decision to dismiss the journalists, and that the court grant a cost order against those persons in their individual capacity.
“The SABC’s decision to dismiss the journalists without a hearing is totally unlawful. The SABC was aware of it but nevertheless proceeded. There must be consequences for intentional unlawful conduct,” Solidarity Chief Executive Dirk Hermann said.
According to Solidarity, the SABC showed contempt for South African courts by proceeding to dismiss the journalists amid legal processes that are under way.
“The SABC’s case is aggravated by the fact that an existing Icasa ruling declares the SABC’s censorship decision unlawful in terms of the Broadcasting Act and the South African Constitution. This Icasa decision stands until invalidated by the Supreme Court in a review process.
If the SABC’s decision is unlawful then all actions arising from it, such as the disciplinary processes, would also be unlawful. From a legal and moral perspective the right thing to do would have been to revoke the disciplinary processes with immediate effect. The SABC did the opposite by firing the journalists.”
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