Sanef lauds quality of journalism despite impact of COVID-19 on the sector

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The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) says despite the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the media industry in the past two years, South Africa has been able to produce good and quality journalism.

This emerged at the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards ceremony held in Johannesburg last night. The event was held to celebrate excellence in journalism.

Sbusiso Ngalwa, who has been re-elected Sanef chairperson for the second term, says COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the media industry. He says the media industry has lost about 1 000 journalists and that about 100 publications have had to shut down because of the pandemic.

Ngalwa says another challenge facing media practitioners is mental health issues and they have now partnered with the SA Depression and Anxiety Group to help struggling journalists.”We take it for granted that we are built tough. You go to a story, you experience a traumatic experience, you laugh about it, you smoke, and you forget about it. But the reality is that we live through that. Today, we reflected that as newsrooms. We are not equipped to deal with trauma. Actually, we do not even understand. So, the education starts with us before we partner with other people. Before we try to help journalists, we need to understand what our colleagues are going through.”

He says despite these challenges, South Africa’s journalism is alive and thriving. And this was confirmed at last night’s Journalism awards ceremony where a number of media practitioners received recognition for their outstanding work in exposing the malfeasance and being a mirror of society. The winner of the Story of the Year and Investigative Journalism awards went to Pieter-Louis Myburgh, for the Digital Vibes story, which exposed a dodgy R150 million communications tender that saw Health Minister Zweli Mkhize fired from his post.

He says the award is the result of hard work.”The Digital Vibes expose and the fallout from the expose and the political repercussions for somebody like former Minister Zweli Mkhize really highlights the impact of this kind of work. It makes me happy to recognise the fact that we live in the country where the public appreciates this kind of journalism and our work still have the impact and we have the freedom to do this kind of work which is very important.”

Phandulazwi Mjikelo, a photographer from the Cape Times also won two awards for News and Feature Photographs.

One of the two awards is for a photograph he took of an asylum seeker bathing in an open tent in Bellville in the Western Cape.”It is still shocking because the situation has still not changed and for them not to have toilets and stuff like that, and showers to be taken away from them was really something inhumane to say (the least). I was sent there just to tell what was happening and as I got there the guys were busy showering you know. I am very happy that people recognised my work at the end of the day.”

Standard Bank is the official sponsor of the awards.

Former Treasury Director-General who’s now the bank CEO Lungisa Fuzile says media that is not trustworthy is not worth anything to its society.

He says a trusted media like banking cannot exist by being partisan.Fuzile says the media has an important role to play in a young democratic country like South Africa.

“You are a great service to our relatively young Democracy. I will make bold and say that without you our democracy would fail. Everyone of you here in this room and watching online are our heroes and heroines.  We are eternally grateful to you and proud of what you have achieved over past two years.”