MTN South Africa donates R500 000 to support out-of-work journalists

The closure of two magazine publishers and 80 small print publications operating across the country has led to the loss of over 700 jobs in journalism.

MTN SA has donated R500 000 towards a relief fund for journalists, which was launched by the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) on Thursday. Journalism like many other professions has been hit hard by the pandemic and the fund will aid those in dire need with a small donation to purchase necessities like food and clothing. However, only freelance, contract or permanently employed journalists who have been retrenched or had their contracts cancelled since the implementation of the national lockdown on 26 March 2020, will be eligible to apply.

In a statement released on Thursday, SANEF said it was keenly aware of the fact that many industries are experiencing tough times and that salary cuts and retrenchments have become an ever-present reality. 

“But what is particularly worrying is that with the media industry plays a powerful, democracy-deepening role in society – this is in terms of ensuring a free flow of information in society to keep citizens informed and to hold the powerful to account, both in terms of government and the private sector. We are thus worried that the collapse of the media in small towns, and the shrinking of the industry as a whole, will have a devastating long-term effect on the health of our democracy,” read the statement. 

SANEF announced plans to establish the fund when it recently launched the Covid-19 Impact on Journalism report which, among other things, found that the closure of two magazine publishers and 80 small print publications operating across the country had led to the loss of over 700 journalist jobs. 

Also, the report pointed to the fact that freelancers had been particularly badly impacted and that 60 percent of their members had lost almost 70 percent of their income – and that some had lost 80 percent to 100 percent. 

MTN South Africa corporate affairs executive Jacqui O’Sullivan said in the aforementioned statement that all South Africans owed a tremendous debt of gratitude to the reporters and editors who have braved harsh conditions every day to provide invaluable information that is helping save lives.

“In MTN’s view, it is now imperative that the private sector steps in to offer financial assistance to ensure quality reporting standards can be maintained across digital, broadcast and print media platforms. To ensure communication channels remain open and the public gets the information it can trust, MTN is proud to partner with SANEF to begin offering financial support and aid through a targeted relief fund for journalists.”

However, she added that this was only the first step and that “far more” needed to be done, encouraging all large corporates, companies in supply chains, clients and individuals who can, to step up and help by contributing to the fund.