News / Africa

SABC manipulated news on Zimbabwe, Court Ruled

by Byo24NEWS
28 Jan 2011 at 01:55hrs | 643 Views
A South African court has ruled that SABC unlawfully manipulated news items on Zimbabwe and deliberately blacklisted commentators deemed critical of Robert Mugabe.

A High court judge in Johannesburg ruled on Monday that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was guilty of manipulating the news in 2005 and 2006. Judge Neels Claassen ruled in the South Gauteng High Court that there had been widespread manipulation of news under the SABC's former head of news, Snuki Zikalala, and that he had "dishonestly tried to cover up this manipulation."

The court ordered communications regulator Icasa to re-launch its investigation into political interference in the news coverage of the public broadcaster in 2006. In 2007, Zikalala is alleged to have ordered the blacklisting of journalists and political commentators critical of then President Thabo Mbeki. The judgment also accused Zikalala of "unlawfully manipulating" news items on Zimbabwe's 2005 elections, and blacklisting certain commentators to silence critical voices.

Court affidavits by former SABC head of radio news, Pippa Green, documented Zikalala's interference in day-to-day operations at the SABC and in the Zimbabwe coverage. Zikalala is said to have traveled to Zimbabwe for the 2005 elections to negotiate the terms of SABC's coverage with Robert Mugabe's cronies. When he came back, he apparently warned reporters that, after the elections, he would "take action" against Green and any reporter who expressed an "opinion" on Zimbabwe.

The ruling also directly implicates Mbeki, whose kid-glove handling of Mugabe as the regional mediator in Zimbabwe's crisis, has been widely criticised. Mbeki's policy of 'quiet diplomacy' means Mugabe has been allowed to carry on as Zimbabwe's President, despite losing elections. Mbeki also led South Africa's blocking of an American and British-backed proposal to impose United Nations (UN) sanctions, a move supported by Russia and China.

The Zimbabwe crisis is now current President Jacob Zuma's responsibility, and his handling so far has also been criticised as too soft. Political commentator Professor John Makumbe argued that Zuma is guilty of "silent diplomacy."

"Zuma is yet to show that he has achieved anything in Zimbabwe," Makumbe said.

He added: "If ZANU PF steals the next elections we must wonder if Zuma will have the muscle to do anything. But right now it is a clear sign that we (Zimbabweans) are on our own."

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