IEC dismisses SABC complaint against ANC's Jessie Duarte
The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) has dismissed the SABC’s complaint against ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte after a confrontation she had with its staff at the elections results centre last November.
The SABC complained that Duarte made comments to its journalists, including now axed head of news Phathiswa Magopeni, allegedly accusing the public broadcaster of being biased and discriminatory against the ANC.
It said her comments were harassment and intimidation of its journalists and such behaviour breached the Electoral Code of Conduct.
The IEC disagreed, saying in its findings sent to the corporation this week that “the SABC has not provided evidence that demonstrates a breach of the code by Duarte or the ANC”.
“In the commission’s view, there is nothing suggesting Ms Duarte, in expressing herself in the manner in which she did, frustrated or impeded SABC journalists from doing their work during their coverage of the elections at the results centre.
“The commission holds the view that Ms Duarte was expressing her opinion, albeit in a strong tone, about the manner in which she believed the SABC was reporting on the ANC.
“The commission notes that none of the affected journalists had suggested in their statements that Ms Duarte made any threat against them, an act which would constitute intimidation and harassment of the journalists,” said the IEC in a letter dated March 14.
It found that the evidence placed before it did not support the allegations that Duarte breached the code.
“In the circumstances, having regard to the information available to it, the commission is unable to conclude that there may have been a prima facie breach of the code that would necessitate it elevating the matter to the Electoral Court for a determination.”
In the letter, signed by the IEC’s legal services, the commission suggested that if the SABC was not satisfied with its finding it could refer the matter to the Electoral Court.
The SABC had not responded at the time of publishing.
The IEC letter reveals that in her response to the SABC’s complaint Duarte denied that her statements amounted to harassment and intimidation.
“She argued that her interactions with the journalists were frank and robust discussions which, in the context of a politically-charged environment, could not be viewed as harassment or intimidation.
“She contended that the allegations made against her were vague and there was no evidence advanced by the journalists in support of such allegations.”
In its reply to Duarte, the SABC reiterated its position that her comments to its journalists were intended to cast doubt on the credibility of the newsroom and made with the intention to publicly humiliate and intimidate them.
The SABC said Duarte should have followed the appropriate channels instead of addressing her concerns with the journalists.
According to the IEC, it received no reply from Magopeni, despite an invitation to her for comment.
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