South Africa: SABC keeps lid on 'Project Spear' documentary

Regulation & Policy

The South African Broadcasting Corporation is in the news for not airing a politically sensitive documentary that details allegations of apartheid-era theft of public funds. The public broadcaster, which had commissioned the film, has also refused to sell the rights back to the filmmaker and has filed a lawsuit demanding she turn over her raw footage and accusing her of breaching copyright by staging private screenings.

"Project Spear" documents a 1999 proposal from the British-based private investigation company Ciex to the South African government to recover billions in public funds the firm said were misappropriated by apartheid-era bankers and officials. The film is based on a story first broken by the independent investigative magazine Noseweek in September 2010. (The film has no connection to "The Spear," a satirical portrait of South African President Jacob Zuma, which caused debate last year.)

"Project Spear" was originally scheduled for broadcast in September 2012 as the first in a six-part series called "Truth Be Told," commissioned by SABC 2, one of three free-to-air TV channels operated by the public broadcaster. It was later advertised for broadcast on November 4, 2012, as the last in the series. However, it never aired.

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