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SANEF marks the 43rd anniversary of Black Wednesday amidst mass retrenchments and job losses in the media sector

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) joins media houses and advocacy groups around the country in commemorating Black Wednesday – the day in October 1977 when then Minister of Justice, Jimmy Kruger ordered the arrest of editors and the banning of 19 Black Consciousness organisations and several anti-apartheid newspapers such as the World and the Weekend World.

Several events were held today and more will be held later in the month. They included the 10th Annual Percy Qoboza Memorial Lecture (Qoboza was the editor at the time of The World newspaper); a webinar discussion on fake News and disinformation by the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) as well as the Aggrey Klaaste Trust’s first annual colloquium on “Surviving 2020 and Media Credibility Going Forward”.

SANEF notes that although South Africa is in a far better position in terms of media freedom compared to those dark apartheid days, the media industry still faces serious challenges including journalists being harassed by police and communities when covering protests.

On Friday, for instance, SABC news journalist Reginald Witbooi was threatened by ANC members in Senekal during a LIVE crossing. A number of other journalists were also harassed by EFF supporters including Graeme Raubenheimer, also from the SABC and News 24’s Pieter Du Toit. Since the Senekal Case started, Citizen journalist, Marizka Coetzer and photographer, Tracy-Lee Stark were assaulted and their equipment damaged when a crowd of approximately 1 000 farmers protested outside the court against the murder of 22 year old Brendan Horner on Tuesday afternoon.

SANEF Chairperson, Sbusiso Ngalwa says a lot more work still needs to be done to educate all sectors of society about the crucial role the media plays in strengthening democracy. Ngalwa also points to the serious financial problems faced by the sector.

Says Ngalwa, “With COVID-19, we have seen publications close down, we have seen companies announcing mass retrenchments, and we have seen no less than 700 journalists losing their jobs during this period.”

“So, the reduction in the number of journalists and media houses has a direct influence and direct threat to efforts to spread the news and ensure a free flow of information.”

The impact of COVID-19 on the media sector led to SANEF establishing a Media Relief Fund, which was launched in July to assist journalists financially.  We are happy to report that due to the goodwill of individuals and donors and the generosity of corporate South Africa, the Fund is a few thousand rand short of R5 million – SANEF has so far raised R4 870 067. The initial seed funding of R500 000 was contributed by MTN SA. Standard Bank and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSF-SA) are the latest two organisations to contribute a million rand.

SANEF used the first phase to offer emergency relief to pay out a total of R1 135 000.00 to 227 beneficiaries. The second phase closed on 30 September and is currently under adjudication. SANEF will launch the third phase shortly.

With further funding, SANEF is hoping to support other projects to assist the sustainability of small, independent media institutions across the country, through a variety of targeted interventions.

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 Ngalwa – 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

Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected]  Website: www.sanef.org.za

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