Africa

South Africa sacked reporters win SABC censorship case

A protester in chained hands and a gas mask atop his head rallies with others outside the offices of South Africa's public broadcaster on July 1, 2016 in Johannesburg to protest against alleged bias and self-censorship in news coverage ahead of key municipal elections. Image copyright AFP
Image caption SABC's decision to ban footage of violent protests proved controversial

South Africa's public broadcaster has been ordered to reinstate four journalists sacked for speaking out against censorship at the corporation.

Labour Court Judge Andre van Niekerk said the dismissals were unlawful.

The journalists, fired earlier this month, had criticised the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for banning footage of violent protests.

SABC argued it took the decision to maintain public order as the TV images might encourage others to join in.

Last week, South Africa's high court ordered SABC to lift the footage ban.

Judge Van Niekerk said the four journalists - Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp - should be reinstated immediately and that all disciplinary measures against them dropped.

The trade union Solidarity, which represented the journalists at the employment tribunal, has welcomed the ruling.

The four are among eight journalists, known on Twitter as the #SABC8, who had challenged the broadcaster's controversial editorial decision.

Three other full-time employees and a freelance TV anchor are also fighting their dismissals.

Demonstrations against what some see as the poor delivery of public services are not uncommon in South Africa.

Critics had criticised the SABC's move, accusing it of political censorship ahead of crucial local government elections next week.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng, SABC chief operations officer, said the ban was in line with "nation building" and denied the public broadcaster was clamping on dissent, says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

The SABC says its lawyers will study the labour court judgement in full before commenting.

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