Idols judge in South Africa gets job back after tweet uproar

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA - Associated Press ,

449 Hits

South African Idols judge Gareth Cliff, is photographed outside the High Court in Johannesburg.

South African Idols judge Gareth Cliff, is photographed outside the High Court in Johannesburg. (Photo: AP Photo)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A comment by a judge in South Africa's "Idols" television show stirred a national conversation, and it had nothing to do with music.

South African television network M-Net dropped Gareth Cliff from its judging panel for the reality singing competition after a tweet that some South Africans thought was racist. Cliff, who said his tweet was not racist and was instead a defense of free speech, then won a court case against M-Net and was reinstated on Idols South Africa.

Cliff, who is white, said Saturday that South Africa, which emerged from white minority rule in 1994, should continue a civil discussion about race.

The judge on the 12th season of South Africa's version of the international franchise also said: "The show will go on."

Auditions are currently underway.

The uproar over Cliff began after a South African white woman, Penny Sparrow, said in a Facebook post that black beachgoers celebrating the new year were making a mess and described them as "monkeys."

Many South Africans were outraged by the remarks and there were calls to prosecute Sparrow and introduce a new law that would criminalize comments deemed to be racist.

Cliff, a radio and television host, was dismissed as an Idols judge after tweeting: "People really don't understand free speech at all."

"We do not believe that Gareth is a racist but his response showed a lack of empathy for our history and it is important to differentiate between freedom of speech and hate speech," M-Net said in a statement.

The network had to backtrack after a judge in Johannesburg ruled that Cliff should be reinstated because M-Net had a contractual relationship with him. The company was also ordered to pay his legal costs.

© Samoa Observer 2016

Developed by Samoa Observer in Apia