Thursday, June 22, 2006

South Africa's public broadcaster has banned high-profile government critics, fuelling claims of bias towards the ruling African National Congress

Rory Carroll:

At least six political analysts who have on occasion criticised President Thabo Mbeki and his allies have been blacklisted on the grounds that they were ill-informed.

The decision followed a spate of censorship rows that prompted accusations that the SABC had become a mouthpiece for the ANC, just as it was once a propaganda tool for the apartheid regime. It recently ditched a television documentary critical of the president and refused to show images of a cabinet minister being booed during a speech.

This week it emerged that producers had been instructed not to use certain commentators, including William Gumede, Vukani Mde, Vuyo Mvoko, Karima Brown, Aubrey Matshiqi and Xolela Mangcu, an eclectic list of analysts, authors and newspaper columnists.

The president's brother, Moeletsi Mbeki, an outspoken critic of some government policies, was also said to have been banned, though SABC recently used an interview he gave to the BBC.

The blacklist was drawn up by the head of news, Snuki Zikalala, an ANC member and former government spokesman who answers to a board appointed by an ANC-dominated parliamentary committee.

Peter Bruce, the editor of Business Day, said the exclusion of some of his newspaper's columnists was absurd. "The editorial credibility of the SABC is in such free fall it may be a good thing we are not involved in any of their programming."

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