SMC stance on the interaction between the executive and the SBC |27 December 2022
The board of the Seychelles Media Commissionis of the view that expressing a concern or criticising the content and output of the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation ‒ in this case the state-owned broadcast media ‒ does not constitute an interference in the work of the corporation.
However, the manner in which the interaction between the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) and the executive was done, could have been construed as interference.
Under Article 168 of the Constitution of ‘The Third Republic’, state-owned broadcasting media should “operate independently of the state and of the political or other influence of other bodies, persons or political parties”.
Nevertheless, anyone, including the government, is free to praise, criticise or offer suggestions to the corporation. For its part, the SBC says it welcomes such feedback and will engage in dialogue with any stakeholder, but will always uphold its independence.
The need for the SMC clarification comes in the wake of the controversy sparked off by the recent meeting which the Vice-President and the Designated Minister had with the SBC following the LOPINYON programme aired by the corporation on November 8, 2022. In a segment of this programme, three members of the public expressed their views and opinions in respect of an event where a government minister had been involved in a road accident and where a police officer was injured. The government side felt the treatment of the subject was unfair and unwarranted. The SBC maintained it was in conformity with its mandate to allow free expression of citizens but agreed that the programme could have been better edited.
The government had initially contacted the Seychelles Media Commission (SMC) whose chief executive (CEO) had advised the executive to contact the SBC to discuss their respective positions. With hindsight, the CEO of the SMC concedes that this was an error of judgement on his part. Had the standard procedure in place been followed, where complainants are requested to submit their grievances in writing, the matter could probably have been resolved without giving rise to public speculations of interference in the work of the SBC.
Following the concerns raised, the SMC tasked a three-person delegation headed by its chairperson to hold separate meetings with the parties involved to establish the facts.
The SMC learned that both parties had open and frank discussions and there was no dispute at the end of the meeting. However, a question from the executive during that meeting as to whether the SBC had a political agenda was a matter of serious concern for its CEO who dismissed any such suggestion.
In its conclusion, the SMC did not find any evidence of institutional bias by the SBC against anyone. The SMC is of the view that further and specialised training and greater editorial scrutiny would contribute towards an improved output. SMC was told that some members of an internal SBC review committee felt the programme could have been better, if some opinions expressed had been questioned or clarified. The SMC concurs with this view especially as the programme in question was pre-recorded and was not a ‘live’ broadcast.
It is to be noted that the leader of the United Seychelles political party had also lodged a formal complaint with the SMC to express its concern in regards to media freedom requesting an investigation into what he described as ‘state interference’ in the state-owned broadcasting media.
The SMC also received a copy of a letter addressed to TéléSesel from a lawyer acting on behalf of the minister involved in the accident. The letter listed what it deemed were inaccuracies in TéléSesel news broadcast relating to the incident. The lawyer demanded rectification and an apology failing which legal action would commence. The SMC has noted that subsequently TéléSesel broadcast the contents of the letter from the lawyer and an apology was offered.
Press release from the Seychelles Media Commission