The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the country's public service broadcaster, has lost a case against four journalists it sacked after they spoke out against perceived self-censorship. The four journalists – Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp – challenged their dismissal with the Labour Court in Johannesburg.

"The respondent's dismissals of the second to fifth applicants is unlawful," Judge Andre van Niekerk said, according to News 24.

The four journalists are part of eight employees known as 'SABC 8', sacked after they criticised the network's decision not to broadcast footage of violent protests.

The organisation drew widespread criticism in June after it adopted a so-called 'Protest Policy' and refused to broadcast footage showing "destruction of property".

Violent protests have afflicted South Africa in recent months, with riots in Limpopo province seeing more than 20 schools burned down in May, and protests turning deadly in Tshwane in June.

SABC said broadcasting violent acts could incite further unrest in the run-up to a local election in August. However, the eight journalists challenged the decision, arguing that it amounted to censorship.

'SABC 8' journalists

Thandeka Gqubule
Foeta Krige
Lukhanyo Calata
Suna Venter
Busisiwe Ntuli
Krivani Pillay
Vuyo Mvoko
Jacques Steenkamp

The broadcaster responded by dismissing the employees, claiming their conduct "undermined the SABC and the authority of its management." All eight reporters applied for direct access to the Constitutional Court.

SABC's decision to fire the eight employees has been met with wide-ranging anger.

South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), also condemned SABC's decision to fire the journalists, arguing that workers cannot "live in fear in their workplace".

While commenting on the dismissal of the eight journalists, a spokesperson for the organisation told the BBC: "In each and every organisation there are rules and regulations and if you do not go according to the rules you will be fired."