MTN Gives R500K to Relief Fund for Journalists Hit by Pandemic

MTN South Africa has made a donation of R500,000 to a newly started relief fund to help journalists whose livelihoods have been devastated by COVID-19, and has exhorted other businesses to also help.

media journalist keyboard
Photo: Shutterstock.

A newly released report by the non-profit South African National Editors’ Forum, COVID19 Impact on Journalism, has highlighted the havoc that the pandemic has caused on the media, especially magazines and newspapers. Two companies, Associated Press (which published Cosmopolitan, among other titles) and Caxton, closed their magazine titles and more than 700 journalists lost their jobs.

“We want to express our warm gratitude to MTN SA for their contribution … and for their further commitment to lobby other corporates to contribute,” said Mahlatse Mahlase, South African National Editors’ Forum chairperson. SANEF said in a statement today that the Social Justice Initiative would control the fund and ensure that all funds were fairly and transparently distributed.

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, will be eligible to apply.

MTN’s Jacqui O’Sullivan said all South Africans owed a tremendous debt of gratitude to the reporters and editors who had braved harsh conditions every day to provide invaluable information that was helping to 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, this was just the first step and “far more” needed to be done, which was why MTN was encouraging all large corporates, companies in supply chains, clients and individuals who could do so, to step up and help by contributing to this fund.

A report by SANEF last month highlighted “the devastation that COVID has wreaked on the industry – particularly the print media with the closure of two magazine publishers and 80 small print publications operating across the country, leading 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.”

“This fund is, therefore, a small first step to assist the industry and thus ultimately to assist all citizens to get the information they need.”