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South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) – Annual General Meeting – Cape Town – Friday, June
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South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) – Annual General Meeting – Cape Town – Friday, June

Growth of digital news avenues and ethical challenges: Sanef noted the need to investigate the possibility of a cross platform regulatory mechanism to safeguard and enhance the credibility of news distributed through various platforms particularly digital. The meeting noted that distribution of news and related content has expanded exponentially through the digitals sphere. However, mechanisms to ensure adherence to journalistic ethics has lagged behind relative to print and broadcast sectors which have well-established and predictable regulatory mechanisms that handle concerns of aggrieved audiences. Sanef is to work with other media stakeholders and regulators in the digital, broadcast and print spheres to explore models to enhance ethical conduct. This would be done while ensuring that the digital sphere continues to grow and foster unhindered access to news and to guarantee the growing citizen participation in public debates.

Marikana Commission approaching journalists to give evidence: Sanef noted that a number of journalists had been approached to provide evidence by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the 2012 killings at Marikana. Sanef noted the potential risks to the integrity of the journalism profession, and thus decided that journalists should not appear before the Commission. This is primarily because Journalists observe events and gather information with the sole purpose of disseminating it as news for public consumption and not as evidence for judicial or semi-judicial purposes. Sanef will address a letter to Judge Ian Farlam, chairman of the Commission, explaining its position and requesting a meeting to discuss the issue.

Protection of State Information Bill: Sanef reiterated its call to President Jacob Zuma to use Section 84 (2;C), which gives him powers to refer a Bill to the Constitutional Court for a decision on its constitutionality instead of signing it into law. Sanef believes this is the cost-effective way of addressing widespread concerns instead of a potentially long-drawn out legal battle. Should the President however sign the bill into law, Sanef stands ready to challenge it at the Constitutional Court.

Accreditation of journalists to important events. The meeting expressed appreciation of the manner in which journalists and media houses conducted themselves during the coverage of the state funeral of former President Nelson Mandela. Special mention was made of the fruitful cooperation between Sanef and GCIS in ensuring media access to important events and information from the moment when the sad news was announced to the day when he was laid to rest. A similar appreciation was expressed in the manner in which the office of the Chief Justice intervened when certain magistrates sought to unnecessarily restrict media access to courts. Sanef and the office of the Chief Justice also cooperated to ensure adequate media access to the Oscar Pistorius trial.

Address by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng: Sanef held a discussion with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who was the guest speaker at the AGM, about the important role of an independent judiciary and media in sustaining our constitutional democracy. The Chief Justice said accurate reporting and fair commentary were critical in strengthening the role of the media. Institutional independence of the judiciary was also crucial.

Leadership: Sanef re-elected Mpumelelo Mkhabela, Editor of Sowetan, and Makhudu Sefara, Editor of The Star, as Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson respectively. Katy Katopodis, Editor in Chief of Eye Witness News, was elected Secretary while Angela Quintal, Editor of Mail & Guardian, who was previously Secretary, is now Treasurer.

Nat Nakasa Award: Sanef was honoured by the presence of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who was the keynote speaker at the annual event. Also present were members of the Nakasa family. At the dinner, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced that the Supreme Court of New York had granted permission for the exhumation and repatriation of the remains of Nat Nakasa, the late courageous South African journalist whose remains are buried in the United States. Sanef appreciated the role that government is playing and committed itself to continue to work together with government in ensuring that the repatriation and reburial of Nakasa’s remains in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal becomes a success.

In his keynote address, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed the importance of a critical media in cajoling public officials to improve on the fulfilment of their mandate. Ramaphosa urged the media to tell the South African story accurately in all its facets – in a compelling and moving manner. He said with the high level of mistrust across different sectors of society, the media was an institution that could serve as a glue that holds society together and enhance social cohesion.

The prestigious annual Nat Nakasa Journalism Award for Courageous Journalism was given to former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois following a unanimous decision of the three independent judges. The award is the initiative of Print and Digital Media SA, the Nieman Society of Southern Africa, and Sanef.

The SANEF-Wrottesley Award was given posthumously to long-serving Sanef member Gavin Stewart. The award is for journalists or editors who have shown extraordinary commitment to Sanef and all that it stands for. The award was accepted by Gavin’s wife Sue.

Sanef also made special mention in honour of veteran journalist and writer James Matthews. He was among those who endured the wrath of the apartheid regime which sought to silence his pen with banning orders. The inspirational Matthews (85) continues to write.

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