Pretoria – Political organisations and ordinary consumers across the country have raised concern over MultiChoice’s decision to suspend a Russian news channel on it’s DStv bouquet.
MultiChoice, which is part of DStv, issued a statement to suspend the airing of Russia Today, a Russian news television station on channel 407 last week.
This after the EU imposed sanctions on Russia for launching an attack on its neighbour Ukraine.
The two countries are currently engaged in a war.
In its statement seen by Pretoria News, the television heavyweight stated: “MultiChoice confirms that as of today (2 March) Russia Today (channel 407) shall not be carried on the DStv platform until further notice. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU have led to the global distributor of the channel ceasing to provide the broadcast feed to all suppliers, including Multi Choice.”
However this has left ordinary SA citizens and political structures fuming, saying it was censorship and that it denied viewers the right to choose the kind of content they wanted.
South Africa’s ruling party the ANC called on the television giant to reconsider blacking out Russia Today, calling it a draconian decision.
In a statement party spokesperson Pule Mabe said: “The sanctions imposed on Russia have resulted in the MultiChoice platform unilaterally withdrawing Russia TV from its offerings, impacting negatively on the freedom of choice to subscribers and limiting their consumption of news on the developments in the Ukraine-Russia conflict.”
Black First Land First has threatened to march to the DStv offices in Randburg if the channel was not reinstated, calling the decision “reckless, a way of censorship and a dictatorship”.
Speaking to Pretoria News, Deputy President, Zanele Lwana said her party was preparing to march to the MultiChoice offices If the television organisation did not reverse the decision.
She said: “As soon as we have finalised our internal processes, we are going to take to the streets at the MultiChoice offices.
“We stand with Russia and we take inspiration from them. The West has vested interest in other countries and are not being condemned for wanting to take other states’ resources.
“The west does not care of people’s livelihoods and business, will not start or end by them. The West and the EU have imposed unreasonable sanctions on Russia and are suppressing dissenting voices to nurse their own interests.
“Russia has proven over and over again its alliance with a developing country like South Africa.
Lwana added that they would also be marching at the Russian embassy in Pretoria to show support and solidarity to the country.
The party condemned the suspension of the channel, calling it an attack on media freedom and freedom of expression.
SADTU and the EFF added their voices to the debate, calling on MultiChoice to reinstate the channel with immediate effect or face a boycott by its members.
Civil organisation, The Freedom of Expression Institute of SA said it would leave viewers poorer because they were not free to make their own decisions.
Some ordinary consumers took to social media to raise their dissatisfaction over the suspension.
Gauteng ANC activist Noko Rapudi said: “Now we have to decide if we want to continue to do business with companies who are controlled by EU to deprive us the most crucial information during war times.”
Rapudi added in another posting: “If anything, South Africans must accept neither apologies nor explanation from Multichoice and their partners regarding the matter of shutting down the Russian channel…learn from the West when you (are) with them, they instantly black your financial and commercial transactions.”
Charles Mbobo of Tembisa in the East Rand said he was disappointed with MultiChoice because he paid a lot of money to watch an array of channels.
“I pay money to watch these channels, especially news channels during war. Now for MultiChoice making a decision to suspend a channel without consulting me was tempering on my freedom while I’m paying.”
Brenda Makamu from Soweto said she was wondering whether to continue paying for her subscription or not.
“Most of the channels on DStv are repetitive. So for them to switch one off because of their bias is not fair at all. So I’m not sure if I’ll pay my DStv this month,” Makamu said.
MultiChoice referred Pretoria News to their statement.