South Africa: SABC Withdraws Controversial Documentary for Second Time

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Now you see it, now you don't, now you see it, now you don't: such is the farcical situation with the controversial documentary on President Thabo Mbeki, which the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) had scheduled for screening on Sunday.

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) is disturbed that, once again, the documentary has been withdrawn, and will not be screened on Sunday. Why it changed its mind once again when it had decided to screen it, is beyond understanding. This is yet another indication of chaos inside the broadcaster, where different units of the same organisation talk past one another, and then land up working against one another.

We do not buy the argument by SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago, that the booking on the SABC's programming schedule was provisional. This shows an unacceptably cavalier approach towards its own schedule. As the FXI has noted recently, the SABC has withdrawn other controversial programmes at the eleventh hour: something that the Corporation appears to do all too easily, and without public accountability. The latest withdrawal of the Mbeki documentary confirms the impression that the public cannot trust the scheduling information the SABC puts out, and should treat its contents with a pinch of salt.

Freedom of Expression Institute Johannesburg, 8 June 2007