* Journalists told their appearance on show not needed
* Critics say this sign of censorship to protect party
By Peroshni Govender
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 5 South Africa's public
broadcaster cancelled the appearance of three prominent
journalists on a radio show to discuss coverage of an upcoming
ANC leadership conference, drawing accusations from critics of
censorship to protect the ruling party.
Minutes before the journalists - two from local newspapers
and one from the British-based Financial Times - were to go on
air on Tuesday night, they were told by broadcaster SABC's
staff, who received instructions from top brass, that their
views would no longer be needed.
Show host Sakina Kamwendo held back tears as she told
listeners the segment to discuss how the media was covering the
run-up to the ANC's party elections later this month was
cancelled. Music was played in the show's scheduled slot.
The head of the SABC told journalists on Wednesday the
broadcaster stopped the show because there was no representative
from the ANC on the programme, which would be unfair to the
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is
Africa's richest broadcaster by revenue.
It was set up to be independent but has faced criticism from
within its ranks and beyond of being a mouthpiece for the
government of the day - from the apartheid regime that ended in
1994 to the African National Congress which has ruled since.
Several media watchdog groups and the ANC Youth League,
which is often at odds with the mother body, said the
cancellation of the segment showed the public broadcaster was a
tool of President Jacob Zuma's government.
"The SABC consistently fails to uphold objectivity in the
execution of its mandate and has become a ridiculous pawn in the
political theatre they are expected to impartially report on,"
the Youth League said in a statement.
The SABC relies heavily on TV taxes paid by the public and
government funding for revenue but has faced mounting debt that
analysts blame on a bloated staff and incompetent management.
Media watchdogs have said its news reports are often tilted
in favour of Zuma, who is on track to be re-elected to the ANC's
top post this month with widespread approval from party
branches. The SABC says the reports are fair and balanced.
(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Pascal Fletcher)