The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s historic speech on Monday night announcing a lockdown from midnight on Thursday, 26 March until midnight on 16 April.
Ramaphosa made the dramatic announcement of a three-week national shutdown as part of wide-ranging interventions to combat the spread of Covid-19.
The most notable measure was the prohibition of people leaving their homes unless for essential purposes.
Ramaphosa addressed the nation from the Union Buildings in Pretoria after marathon meetings with the National Command Council, which started on Sunday.
In a statement on Tuesday, Sanef said: “We note the categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown include health workers, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), 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 in the speech – but that a ‘full list of essential personnel will be published’. Our understanding is that journalists will be part of the list.”
Sanef said it believed that it was essential that journalists be allowed to do their jobs so that ordinary citizens have a clear understanding of what was 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 said it would be seeking further information from the Presidency and the Government Communication and Information System on Tuesday to get clarity on issues such as the categories of media workers who 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? We will report back to the industry as soon as we have 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,” Sanef added.