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Editors’ Forum asks why eNCA silenced anchors

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Xoli Mngambi and Jane Dutton were taken off air after cigarette ban remarks

THE SOUTH African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said on Friday that it was perturbed by news channel eNCA’s decision to take two anchors off air after they criticised the government’s U-turn on lifting the ban on cigarette sales.

Xoli Mngambi and Jane Dutton on Monday suggested on air that the government reversal pointed to a deep malaise within the ruling party, with ministers seeking to weaken President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Dutton said the president had been “emasculated” and the public “duped”, after Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma contradicted his public commitment to allowing a resumption of cigarette sales under Level 4 of a lockdown regime aimed at containing Covid-19.

Mngambi said it was clear that ANC factional politics had played a role and that Ramaphosa would need to regain control, then asked: “But is he up to it?”

The two journalists jointly apologised on Tuesday, describing their earlier comments as “an unfortunate judgment call”.

Though eNCA has said the presenters were not suspended, they have been off air since Wednesday morning.

Sanef said it would write to acting eNCA managing director Norman Munzhelele to ask that he explain the decision to take Dutton and Mngambi off air.

“We believe that news management should defend journalists and their freedom of expression,” it said.

Sanef said it was aware of a recent editorial directive to presenters and journalists at eNCA to bring more editorial comment into their work, and therefore it did not appear that Dutton and Mngambi were violating internal policy when they made the controversial comments.

– African News Agency (ANA)