South Africa: SABC Withdraws Urgent Bid to Halt Screening of Mbeki Doccie

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The SABC last week withdrew its application for an urgent interdict to stop a private screening of the controversial Thabo Mbeki documentary. The urgent interdict had been intended to halt the Mail & Guardian's Critical Thinking forum from screening the documentary, Unauthorised: Thabo Mbeki and the African Country, last night to 200 high-profile guests who had not been able to view the documentary because the public broadcaster has so far refused to flight it.

The broadcaster said last week it had decided to hold off on the hearing until August 22 and withdraw its "urgent" status. SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said this was due to "logistical reasons" and would apply only to this specific case. "We've agreed to send some SABC people to be a part of the (Mail & Guardian) discussions and we will discuss future screenings thereafter."

The Freedom of Expression Institute , which has criticised the SABC's delays in screening the film, said the move was unacceptable in terms of the SABC's role as public broadcaster. "In principle, they've maintained that Broad Daylight (the producers) was wrong to distribute the documentary. For what reason, I don't know, because they clearly aren't interested in screening it themselves," said the institute's Simon Delaney.

He said the SABC would be free to make its complaints heard at the hearing next month , "if it still wanted to" as "by then I'm sure the whole country would have seen the documentary".

Redi Direko, co- producer of the documentary, said she believed Broad Daylight owned the rights to the documentary as it had given the SABC notice in March that the contract with it had been cancelled. Kganyago said last week no such notification had been received.

(Business Day (Johannesburg), 19 July 2007)