WATCH | SANEF honours South African journalists with Nat Nakasa Award for work on Covid-19 frontline

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  • The South African National Editors Forum decided to confer the 2020 Nat Nakasa Award to the entire South African journalism fraternity for their valiant efforts during a global health crisis. 
  • The forum announced the award with a documentary featuring reporters and editors on 22 August.
  • In it, editors and reporters from some of the country's biggest media houses shared their insights on managing newsrooms during the pandemic.

The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) is honouring reporters across the country for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, the forum decided to confer the 2020 Nat Nakasa Award to the entire South African journalism fraternity, who continued to work every day, despite great personal risk of being infected.

The industry had also faced mass retrenchments, massive salary cuts and the closure of some media houses in recent months. 

The SANEF management committee and independent judges took the decision that all journalists working tirelessly across the country and across communities deserved the Nat Nakasa Award for the courage they displayed. 

The announcement was made on Saturday, with the airing of a documentary. It was filmed while the country was under national lockdown regulations.

The documentary aimed to shine a light on the courageous work done by South African journalists on the frontlines in a time of great unease and continued stress due to the global pandemic.

The newly elected SANEF chairperson, Newzroom Afrika Politics Editor Sbu Ngalwa said journalists had been at the forefront of telling the unfolding story of South Africa's response to Covid-19.

"They have gone into the heart of the storm, risking injury and infection," Ngalwa said.

"We've lost some colleagues due to Covid-19 and we've had scores of other journalists contract the virus, in the line of duty. SANEF thought it important to recognise the brave efforts of each and every journalist in this country who continue to work under these challenging conditions."
Newzroom Afrika Politics Editor Sbu Ngalw

"Set against the backdrop of a country plagued with corruption and economic inequality, the coronavirus lockdown and a world in crisis, SANEF set out to lift the veil and bring to life the heroes that stand behind the headlines as we honour the media with the 2020 Nat Nakasa Award," said SANEF secretary-general Mahlatse Mahlase.

The award was traditionally presented to a single South African media practitioner. It recognised integrity, fearless reporting, commitment to the service of the people of South Africa, the tenacity to maintain reporting despite significant obstacles, in resistance to censorship, and having shown courage in making information available to the public. 

"Our journalists have played a vital role on the frontlines in 2020 as we face the pandemic head on, and will be honoured with a collection of true contemporary stories shared by so many of our countries' most seasoned journalists and media voices as they unmask (literally) the day-to-day struggles faced in their plight to provide us with unbiased and in-depth coverage of current affairs," Mahlase said. 

READ | Qaanitah Hunter lifts 2019 Nat Nakasa Award

Nat Nakasa was a South Africa journalist who died in exile at the age of 28 after a brief, but dynamic career characterised by his journalistic courage and integrity.

In 1964 Nakasa left South Africa for the US to take up a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. In doing so, he relinquished his South African citizenship. After moving to New York the following year, he suffered increasing homesickness and isolation, which contributed to his suicide on 14 July 1965.

His work inspired a generation of journalists who fought through the struggle to tell South Africa, and the world, about the human rights abuses taking place under the apartheid regime.  

"It's pushed me to the boundaries to tell stories in a different way. It's pushed me to get voices of people out, that otherwise would be voiceless. As much as it's been horrific, it's been an eye opener for me."
SABC Radio news reporter Prabashini Naicker

Sanlam chief executive: brand, Sydney Mbhele, said: "This acknowledgement to journalists collectively as winners of the Nat Nakasa Award not only reflects their brilliance on holding powerful individuals and institutions in society accountable on the unprecedented and complex social impact of the coronavirus, it also honours their on-going dedication to promote an informative and free press."

"Our support for the awards and SANEF reflects our commitment to support journalism and media initiatives that reflect a boldness and transparency that helps make our world an open-minded, enlightened place to live, thrive and play."

SANEF also elected its new leadership on Saturday, with Ngalwa appointed as its new chairperson for the next two years.

Adriaan Basson (News24's editor-in-chief) was elected as the new deputy chairperson, Mahlase (EWN) as the secretary-general and Nwabisa Makunga (Sowetan) as the new treasurer.

SANEF also announced its new 25-member council which included Janet Heard from the Daily Maverick, Makhudu Sefara (Sunday World), Mia Malan (Bhekisisa), Monica Laganparsad (New Frame), Nicki Gules (Sunday Times), Nwabisa Makunga (Sowetan), Phathiswa Magopeni (SABC) and Qaanitah Hunter (News24).

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