The National Press Club (NPC) held its post-Covid-19 relaunch on Thursday, 03 November at the iconic Pretoria National Botanical Gardens. Members of the NPC include news journalists, academics, entrepreneurs and members of society. It also comprises decision-makers and intellectuals who advance the South African discourse.
Speakers included North-West University (NWU) principal and vice-chancellor Dr Bismark Tyobeka, who gave the keynote address, the Deputy Minister of State Security, Zizi Kodwa, Antoinette Slabbert, NPC chairperson, and NPC deputy chairperson Willem van de Putte.
Dr Tyobeka addressed a range of topics, such as uncovering state capture and the media industry's role during the pandemic. Reflecting on the crucial role the press played during apartheid, he outlined democratic South Africa’s indebtedness to the journalism profession.
“Through oppressive laws and clandestine activities during apartheid, the oppressive regime continuously harassed, suppressed and instilled fear in journalists. The media and journalists deserve praise for championing section 16 of the South African Constitution, which provides protection for the press and related freedoms. World Press Freedom Day is a result of the efforts of South African journalists and their colleagues on the continent,” he said.
Media professionals can reflect on press freedom and professional ethics on World Press Freedom Day, he added, with governments around the world being reminded to respect their commitment to freedom of the press. Furthermore, he urged the media to reflect on their work and ensure that accurate and credible news is delivered to citizens in order to help them make informed decisions. He underlined that, like in many other professions, journalism training needs to adapt to calls for the Africanisation or decolonisation of the curriculum.
“We need to make sure the students understand the important role that journalism played during the colonial and apartheid periods. The role played by luminaries that I mentioned earlier must never be hidden from the students in order to embrace new media. In addition to learning about journalists and writers on the African continent, our students must learn about journalists and writers of the African diaspora.”
Dr Tyobeka noted the NWU's longstanding relationship and affiliation with the NPC, and that many of the university’s alumni had won the Journalist of the Year award in the past. He further expressed the hope that the mutually beneficial relationship between the NWU and the NPC would continue to grow and become even more formidable.
NPC chairperson Antoinette Slabbert said, “We call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to make himself available for regular question-and-answer sessions with journalists. As conduits of information between newsmakers and the people of South Africa with the calling to inform and educate our fellow South Africans on wide-ranging issues that affect their lives, we believe it is just not good enough to be merely talked to. We therefore insist that the president of the land makes himself available for meaningful engagement through such sessions with the media and through us with the people of South Africa.”
The call has received widespread support from the South African National Editors’ Forum, the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association, the Foreign Correspondents’ Association, the Association of Independent Publishers and Agricultural Writers South Africa.
In his message of support, Zizi Kodwa, Deputy Minister of State Security, encouraged journalists to continue excelling at their work and to probe with the right questions.
Several organisations received merit awards for their outstanding contributions to the journalism industry. These included the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism for its coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the News24 Investigations team for its exposé on widespread public sector corruption, particularly the assassination of Babita Deokaran.
The NWU, which was an anchor sponsor of the relaunch event, received an acknowledgement award from the NPC in recognition of its long-standing support of and affiliation with the organisation.
National Press Club chairperson Antoinette Slabbert and NWU principal and vice-chancellor Dr Bismark Tyobeka.