By Ashok Ramsarup :: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has launched a relief fund to help journalists who lost their jobs following the Novel Coronavirus-19 pandemic that’s wreaking havoc around the world.
SANEF chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase has made the announcement after journalists lost their livelihood as a result of the pandemic earlier this year. Mahlase said: “The Social Justice Initiative will be acting as a fiscal host for the fund and it will play an oversight role to ensure that all funds are fairly and transparently distributed.” The announcement follows a report “COVID-19 Impact on Journalism” released last month painting the media landscape in the country.
The report fervently describes the devastation caused by the COVID-19 virus especially in the print media and the closure of two magazine publishers that led to the loss of over 700 jobs of media practitioners. It also pointed out that freelancers had been badly impacted and that 60% of them had lost almost 70% of their income, while some had lost 80% to 100%.
The latest statistics show that 159 000 people were tested positive for the COVID-19, while 76 000 thousand recovered, and 2 700 had died from the disease.
Mahlase said in a statement that Africa’s telecommunications giant MTN, made a half a million rand contribution to kick-start the fund to SANEF, which is a non-profit organization that includes membership of editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all over the country.
She said: ”SANEF will lobby other corporates to contribute to the fund so that cash-strapped journalists can benefit financially.”
MTN’s Executive Corporate Affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said: “South Africans owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the reporters and editors who braved harsh conditions in the front lines daily to provide invaluable information in a bid to save lives from the COVID-19.
O’Sullivan said: “In MTN’s view, it is now imperative that the private sector steps in to offer financial assistance to ensure quality reporting standards that can be maintained across digital, broadcast and print media platforms.
“To ensure communication channels remain open and the public gets first hand, verified information that it can trust. MTN is proud to partner with SANEF to provide financial support and aid through a targeted relief fund for journalists,” commented O’Sullivan.
Mahlase added that this was just the first step and more needs to be done in this worthy cause. She hoped that all large corporates, companies in supply chains, clients, and individuals to join in and help by contributing to this fund.
SANEF has set up a team comprising media stalwarts Mathatha Tsedu and Joe Thloloe, Wandile Fana from the Association of Independent Publishers, and Melody Emmett from the Freelancers’ Association to process the applications and ably assisted by Anlo Financial Solutions, a financial services company.
Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa