In a statement on Monday, the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s historic speech earlier in the evening announcing a lockdown from midnight on Thursday 26 March until midnight on Thursday 16 April.
The group noted the categories of people who would be exempted from the lockdown included health workers, the South African National Defence Force, emergency personnel, those in the security services, the production of food and basic goods, essential banking services “and so on”.
“We note that journalists were not included among this group in the speech – but that a ‘full list of essential personnel will be published’.”
They said their understanding was that journalists would form part of the final list.
“Sanef believes that it is essential that journalists are allowed to do their jobs so that ordinary citizens have a clear understanding of what is happening in their country – so that they can contain and fight the disease.
“With people under lockdown they need the media for information, to stay abreast of what is happening, to know what to do.
“Broadcasters need special permits to move from their houses to the studios. Media companies have already taken special measures to ensure only a skeleton staff is on call.
“Sanef will be seeking further information from the Presidency and GCIS tomorrow to get clarity on issues such as categories of media workers that may be excluded – does this include workers at printing presses, delivery truck drivers, etc – identification issues, press cards, possible child care for single parents who are journalists and so on?”
They undertook to report back to the industry as soon as they had further information.
“Finally, Sanef again calls on all media houses to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of journalists and to avoid sensationalism.
“We need to ensure the distribution of responsible, fact-checked, credible news and information.”
(Edited by Charles Cilliers)