SAJBD response to SABC’s decision to cancel an interview on Metro FM

SAJBD response to SABC’s decision to cancel an interview on Metro FM

Last week Thursday (21 March 2024), the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) found itself at the centre of a maelstrom of public discourse following the announcement of an interview with Millet Ben Haim, a survivor of the harrowing Nova Festival massacre. This interview, intended for SABC's Metro FM, was poised to offer listeners a poignant insight into the devastating impact of conflict on the lives of ordinary citizens in Israel and Palestine, underscoring the critical need for solidarity with all affected civilians.

However, following the station's announcement of the interview on social media, the narrative took an unexpected turn. The SABC issued a statement, "Metro FM Sets the Record Straight," indicating that the interview was cancelled. An investigation was announced to delve further into the matter and related social media posts were promptly removed.

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) seeks to shed light on the unfolding events and assist in the investigation. Metro FM's invitation to Millet Ben Haim was an opportunity to share her first-hand experience of the Nova Festival, an event that celebrated music and unity but was tragically blighted by an attack that led to significant loss and suffering. The festival, attended by peace-loving individuals, became the site of one of the most horrific civilian massacres ever recorded in Israel.

In the wake of Metro FM's initial announcement to host her, the station faced immediate backlash, notably from artist, Mmabatho Montsho, who cancelled her upcoming interview at the station, because they had planned to host Ben Haim. Seemingly, the SABC capitulated to this bullying and decided to cancel Ben Haim’s interview. Rather than quelling the controversy, it sparked a broader debate about the role of media, the influence of cancel culture, and the importance of diverse narratives in public discourse.

In this very unfortunate instance, the SABC has failed its citizens. It has imposed self-censorship and has shut down a personal testimony of a victim’s story. It has silenced a story of survival and resilience. Ben Haim was not offering an opinion on the Middle East conflict. She was offering a first-hand account of a human tragedy, one that was clearly inconvenient for the media house to air. In an era where social media can significantly influence public opinion, the swift backlash and subsequent cancellation of the interview underscores the need for the media to foster open and constructive dialogue on contentious issues. In not doing so, the SABC has shown weakness, unprofessionalism, and lack of integrity.

The repercussions of this incident can extend beyond a single interview. That is what cancel-culture does. It creates an environment where diversity and complex narratives are censored for fear of public backlash.

The SAJBD calls on the SABC to uphold its role as the fourth estate, championing not just popular narratives but also those that challenge, inform, and enrich public discourse.

As the SABC investigates this incident, it should recognise the invaluable opportunity lost to hear directly from someone who lived through unimaginable horror and emerged with a message of hope and resilience. The SABC should also resist the pressures that seeks to narrow our collective dialogue. The SAJBD stands ready to support a media landscape that embraces this diversity, contributing to a more informed, empathetic, and united society.

About the South African Jewish Board of Deputies:

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies is a leading organization representing the Jewish community in South Africa. Committed to promoting human rights, fostering intercultural dialogue, and ensuring the safety and well-being of communities, the SAJBD is at the forefront of advocacy and education on issues of national and international importance.

Millet Ben Haim in South Africa

Millet Ben Haim in South Africa

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