Nat Nakasa Award 2021 celebrates 25 years of media freedom and courageous journalism

By CityLife Arts Writer

This year marks 25 years since the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) was established with the aim of protecting media freedom and promoting media ethics.

In a year dominated by the COVID-19 global pandemic, fake news and political upheaval both abroad and in South Africa, the role of the media has become even more critical in ensuring people are informed and have accurate information about the events unfolding around them.

Journalists across the world are facing increasingly hostile environments in which to do their work. In South Africa, we have seen journalists come under attack as they report on events such as the recent violence and unrest in Kwa-Zulu Natal and parts of Gauteng and pressure, from both the corporate and political sectors, to temper their stories on corruption and maladministration.

Against this environment, SANEF’s flagship event the Nat Nakasa Journalism Award sponsored by SANLAM, will focus on the impact of Covid-19 on the work of journalists and the important role media have played in the country.

This year, the occasion will be celebrated at a function at The Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre in Sophiatown on August 14.

It is fitting that the 23rd edition of the awards will be presented in an area where the publications Nakasa worked with, Drum Magazine and the Classic literary magazine, have a historical link to the multi-cultural communities who inspired the work of Fr. Huddleston.

Ndazana Nathaniel (Nat) Nakasa influenced generations of writers and journalists through his searing criticism of the apartheid system and his death in exile in the USA in 1965 struck a great blow to the journalism community in SA. The award represents “courageous and brave journalism” and recognise any media practitioner who has “shown integrity and reported fearlessly; displayed a commitment to serve the people of SA; tenaciously striven to maintain a publication or other medium despite insurmountable obstacles; resisted censorship and shown courage in making information available to the SA public.”

The winner is selected by a panel of judges on the basis of nominations submitted by the public. The judges include Peter Sullivan, Joe Thloloe and Crystal Orderson. In 2020, SA’s entire body of journalists was given the award in recognition of “the courageous work done by South African journalists on the frontlines in a time of great unease and continued stress due to the global pandemic”.

 “Nat Nakasa remains a legend not only in journalistic history, but part of a bigger South African story. These awards, named after him, continue to showcase the best courageous media colleagues we have in South Africa. Over the years, the awards have recognised the best in the journalism fraternity. We are thankful to Sanlam for supporting the awards in recent years. We will continue to encourage our journalists to be brave, courageous, ethical as we, SANEF, continue to safeguard media freedom and play a key role in our constitutional democracy,” said Sbu Ngalwa, SANEF’s chairperson.

Izak Minnaar and Mahlatse Mahlase: Winner of the 2019 Stephen Wrottesley award with Mahlatse Mahlase- Secretary General  of SANEF

 Sanlam’s continued support of the Nat Nakasa award embodies its commitment to recognising the important role the media and journalists play in society.

 Sydney Mbhele Sanlam’s Chief Executive: Brand said: “As a major financial services player in South Africa, Sanlam understands the critical role the media play in a functioning democracy and promoting a sustainable future. Key to our involvement is recognising excellence, engagement, and partnerships. Our support of media initiatives such as the Nat Nakasa award, and our other media programmes in South Africa and in Africa more broadly, goes beyond just recognition for the work they do, often in challenging environments. It is also about highlighting the importance the media play in the advancement of the information society or economy we live in.”

The winner will be announced on August 14 at a gala event.

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