South Africa yesterday ordered the expulsion of veteran CBS News reporter Allen Pizzey and his crew after the network broadcast film of a peaceful funeral in the black township of Alexandra.
In a statement, CBS said that the expulsion order is being studied and that the network "intends to use all avenues of appeal" to keep Pizzey, his producer and cameraman in the country.
"The CBS news coverage from South Africa has been responsible," CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter said. "It's been accurate and has been of benefit to our audience."
The order was issued to Pizzey, producer William Mutschmann and cameraman Wim de Vos by Home Affairs Minister Stoffel Botha. Botha said CBS had obtained and aired the film Wednesday night in "flagrant contempt" of a Supreme Court order banning cameras at the funeral for 17 blacks killed during racial unrest in Alexandra.
Botha said his attention had been drawn to CBS after senior news executives, including CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather and foreign editor Sam Roberts, were quoted last Saturday in a Washington Post article.
In The Post report, Rather said South Africa's ban on cameras in trouble spots since Nov. 2 had made coverage more difficult for television, which depends on pictures to tell its news stories.
"We're having one hell of a time . . . but we are determined to continue to report the reality, not the unreality that the government would like us to report," he said.
Rather added later that he felt that the networks had not worked hard enough to explain to U.S. viewers "that this is a systematic harassment with the intention to intimidate" reporters.
Roberts told The Post that South African officials "think they can sweep all their problems under the rug by shutting off our cameras. We don't give up that easy."
Botha said that, "from the Post story , I conclude that CBS is determined to disobey the South African laws in order to obtain film material which, according to our experience, is often one-sided and gives a poor image of conditions in the country. In my opinion, this is a breaking of accepted professional ethics."
Sauter responded: "We are very aware of our ethical obligations . . . and we are also cognizant of the South African laws. This is a legal matter which our attorneys are vigorously pursuing. It is our desire to continue the coverage in South Africa in a manner consistent with our responsibility to our audience."
Rather said yesterday that he could not comment until after the expulsion is appealed.
Roberts said, "I'm not sorry about running the footage , and I don't retract what I said to The Post . When this footage appeared, there was no doubt in my mind that we should run it. In my mind, it was no different from pictures of dissidents in Russia."
CBS sources said that they feel that Pizzey was singled out because he has been "a thorn in their side," as one put it, in efforts to avoid censorship of television coverage in troubled areas.
A Canadian, Pizzey joined CBS in 1980 in Johannesburg, then moved to Athens from which he has covered South Africa. He and his crew filmed South African police hiding in a truck, then shooting at blacks who tried to attack the government vehicle. "It is the single piece they hate the most," one CBS executive said recently.
The film cited by South African authorities yesterday was shown Wednesday night after Pizzey reported on the funeral that day without pictures. Rather introduced the film by saying that it was "taken by an amateur camera and eventually obtained by CBS News outside of South Africa."
Last night on CBS Evening News, Rather reported the expulsion order and showed part of the film again.