The decision by South Africa’s Multichoice to not renew its broadcast contract with the Africa News Network 7 (ANN7) channel founded by the Gupta family could have serious implications for media freedom and set a negative precedent, the National Editors Forum (Sanef) has cautioned.

”We hope that Multichoice’ decision was not influenced by the latest developments in the political landscape and by complaints by people who do not approve of the channel’s stated political preferences,” the organisation said in a statement.

”Media freedom is sacrosanct and needs to be protected at all times against political or business interests and our thoughts remain with all the journalists employed by ANN7.”

Announcing the decision on Wednesday, Multichoice CEO Calvo Mawela said although there was no evidence of corruption with the Midrand-headquartered ANN7, Multichoice has found that there were some mistakes made in contractual negotiations between the two companies.

Sanef said it would seek further clarity from Multichoice on the decision and on Mawela’s statement.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has since said that it would be investigating MultiChoice over allegations of payments made to ANN7 and the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC).

MultiChoice also said that in a bid to replace ANN7 on DStv, it was looking at finding a new black-owned news channel which represents the majority of people in South Africa. This was welcomed by Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane as a “progressive move”.  

“It is imperative to ensure that there is diversity of media ownership bringing new and fresh perspective to the people of South Africa,” Kubayi-Ngubane.

ANN7’s contract on Multichoice’ Dstv bouquet expires in August.

– African News Agency (ANA)