Following six months since the national state of disaster was first proclaimed, President Cyril Ramaphosa paid homage to the particularly important role of the media.
In his weekly letter, dated 14 September, the president highlighted that there was no ‘small part’ played by the media industry.
The industry played an important role in communicating safety and health protocols, it has continued to tell the stories of those businesses and individuals affected by the lockdown and it had continued to hold those in power accountable for their ‘unearthing acts of corruption and maladministration’.
“It [a free press] is a means by which democracy is secured and upheld. During this pandemic, our media has played not just its traditional watchdog role, but exercised its civic duty in supporting the national effort to contain the coronavirus,” added Ramaphosa.
With this in mind, the president remains concerned that like all sectors of the economy, the pandemic has affected various media houses.
Many publications losing up to 60 per cent of their income during the early stages of the lockdown, reduced staff numbers, implemented salary cuts and reduced hours worked. Many of the country’s most established magazine titles were also forced to close their doors.
These were among the concerns shared with the president during the South Africa National Editor’s Forum last week.
“We need more journalists, not less. That is why the loss of even a single journalist is not just a loss to the industry but to the country,” said Ramaphosa.
“We need our media veterans, who bring with them vast experience and institutional memory and are able to offer critical reportage and informed analysis. At the same time, we need more young journalists in the profession who are tech-savvy, abreast with new trends in storytelling and in touch with the concerns of a youthful population.”
Despite the current economic crisis, the president added that will government continue to extend its advertising spend to publications and broadcasters, particularly in community media, encouraging all in the private sector to follow accordingly. “During this time our people have relied on our established media houses for information, once again underscoring their importance as pillars of our democracy. As we begin the great task of rebuilding our economy in the aftermath of the pandemic, the media industry will need our support more than ever,” he concluded.
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Actu monde – ZA – ‘We need more journalists, not less’ – Ramaphosa – Sandton Chronicle