A complaint was received from a member of the Muslim community in Cape Town that, in a regular radionews commentary insert, the Iraq war is frequently presented in a biased manner and Muslims themselves are portrayed in a negative way and dealt with unfairly.

The Commission held as follows:

Given the fact that the Connie Lawn broadcast could be regarded as a broadcast which forms part of the early morning news commentary, it is of public importance, not only from a global perspective but also within the South African context. Since freedom of speech lies at the heart of democracy and a broadcaster has the right to inform listeners in the manner it chooses, it would be wrong to find that the broadcasts should be stopped. However, the broadcaster has a duty, in terms of the Broadcasting Code, to ensure that the commentary of Connie Lawn is based on facts truly stated or fairly indicated and referred to. Cape Talk can only achieve this aim by affording the listeners the opportunity of hearing opposing sets of views. However, given the fact that the programme is clearly pro-American, this would probably not be possible within the parameters of Connie Lawn’s interview. Nevertheless, if this aim cannot be achieved, it is obligatory for Cape Talk to ensure that the views expressed are balanced, at least within a period of seven days, by broadcasting a news insert which deals with problems seen from the Iraqi side. In any case, Ms Lawn must be informed that any criticism against Muslims as such must either be avoided or balanced in the interest of fairness, either in the same programme, or in a subsequent insert, within a reasonable time. This places an obligation on Cape Talk to monitor what Ms Lawn says on a daily basis and then to ensure, where her comment is deemed to be unfair, that the necessary balance is provided in a subsequent news commentary insert that is related to the programme, by the next morning, or, at least, within a period of seven days.

[2008] JOL 22886 (BCTSA)



The Complaint was upheld.