The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) held its final council meeting for 2021 in Johannesburg, where robust discussions on critical issues affecting the news media industry were held.
The Council meeting noted how the industry continues to battle the devastating impact brought by the COVID-19 pandemic – ranging from the untimely passing of some of our colleagues to the continued negative financial impact of the pandemic on newsrooms.
Despite those challenges, 2021 proved to be an action-packed year for the organisation as SANEF embarked on several projects aimed at empowering journalists. These include:
- a) Elections training workshops
- b) An Elections portal
- c) The Media Relief Fund
- d) The production of a manual on Reporting the Courts
- e) The production of a manual on Reporting the Covid-19 Pandemic
- e) The safety training for journalists
- f) A partnership with SADAG on mental health assistance for journalists. There is now a dedicated SMS line ready to assist journalists. It’s 31985
25 Year Anniversary Book
In marking SANEF’s 25th anniversary, a book was produced were founder members, current editors and members contributed towards its success. The book was initiated and edited by Mary Papayya, the chairperson of SANEF’s Media Freedom Committee and Founder Editor.
Interaction with Presidency
SANEF is concerned by the lack of consistent engagements by the Presidency with the media. When President Cyril Ramaphosa came into office, we proposed that there should be a quarterly engagement with the media, where editors and senior journalists can ask him direct questions on the variety of issues facing the country. Sadly, this seems to have fallen through the cracks as there has been poor or no communication from the Presidency.
In July, there was a promise to engage with the media following the devastating July unrest. This did not happen.
SANEF has also called on the President to take questions following his updates on the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite him acknowledging our request, this has never happened.
The latest in the general deterioration of SANEF’s relationship with the government was Friday afternoon’s last-minute cancellation by the Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele. The minister had earlier committed to attend the SANEF council meeting. There were poor reasons provided for the said cancellation.
Yet again, SANEF would like to remind the government that regular engagement is needed, and we will continue to encourage it.
In a country dealing with multiple crises including a deadly pandemic, a struggling economy, policy uncertainty, unanswered questions around the recent looting, South Africans deserve to hear about these and many other issues from the head of state.
SANEF has traditionally advocated for gatherings, including the Cabinet Indaba, to allow for a deeper understanding of the priorities of government to allow for quality reporting.
We urge the Presidency to consider reinstating this event. The last event was held in 2015, led by President Ramaphosa who was then deputy president.
The SANEF council also had a detailed debate on the continued ethical lapses at Independent Media- most notable is their continued publication of fabricated, misleading, and reputationally damaging stories on the so-called “Tembisa decuplets” – the latest being the ludicrous claim that the non-existent children had been trafficked.
SANEF is not only concerned about the impact of the false story on the wider industry but also the reversal of the hard work many organisations do to encourage pregnant women to use health facilities to deliver their babies. Independent Media continues to publish these fabricated stories with no evidence provided. The exploitation of the pain and suffering of those parents who have lost their children to human trafficking is heartless and deceitful.
We urge organisations, professional bodies, and civil society voices to emulate the commendable position taken by Molo Songololo to not take part in the planned docu-series meant to further whitewash the facts about the non-existent decuplets’ story.
SANEF notes and celebrates the honour bestowed on one of our veteran founders, the late Raymond Louw who – at the National Orders event – was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga posthumously by President Ramaphosa. Not only was Louw a veteran journalist who immensely contributed to journalism in SA, but he was also a media freedom champion whose contribution to journalism is well documented even beyond SA’s borders.
As we march into the new year, we do so as an industry faced with various challenges such as the sustainability of the news media, sustaining critical media jobs, declining revenues, the ongoing issue of the safety of journalists, and misinformation, to name a few. These are challenges SANEF, through the cooperation of various stakeholders, is passionate to address as we seek to continue maintaining the media’s rightful place in our constitutional democracy.
Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists, and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics, and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.
For more information please contact:
Sbu Ngala – SANEF Chairperson (073) 404-1415
Adriaan Basson – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 562-2113
Mahlatse Mahlase – Secretary General (083) 399-2852
Nwabisa Makunga – Treasurer (082) 555-1972
Mary Papayya – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957
Asanda Ngoasheng – Western Cape Convenor – 082 610-9374
Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334
Katy Katopodis – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (082) 805-7022
Chiara Carter – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (082) 659-9162
Reggy Moalusi – SANEF Executive Director (071) 682-3695