South African editors on Tuesday said there is room to improve the working atmosphere nationwide for the country’s media despite press freedom strides since the end of apartheid 25 years ago.The senior journalists, grouped under the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), said this when they joined media houses and advocacy groups to commemorate the so-called Black Wednesday.
Black Wednesday recalls a day in October 1977 when apartheid Justice Minister Jimmy Kruger ordered the arrest of editors at several anti-apartheid newspapers as well as the banning of 19 Black Consciousness organisations due to their condemnation of the then white minority government’s human rights abuses.
According to SANEF, although South Africa was currently in a far better position in terms of media freedom compared to its dark apartheid days, the press still faced serious challenges in its day-to-day activities in the country.
These challenges include the continued harassment of journalists by politicians, police officers and others when covering events – especially protests, the forum said.
SANEF chair Sibusiso Ngalwa said more work was needed to be carried out to educate all sectors of society about the crucial role the media played in strengthening democracy.
One of the most prominent challenges the media faced this year, Ngalwa said, was the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the sector.
“With Covid-19, we have seen publications closing down, press companies announcing mass retrenchments, and over 700 journalists losing their jobs during this period,” Ngalwa said.
“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,” Ngalwa said.