By Dr Sandra Roberts

Amid a devastating surge of Covid infections in the country, the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) has launched an essential journalism guide, Reporting in a Pandemic, developed with a focus on the needs of South African community media.

The Reporting in a Pandemic guide, produced collaboratively by SANEF and fraycollege and supported by Internews, draws on experiences of many journalists infected and affected by the pandemic.

“The document on guidelines for reporting the pandemics is released today just as the country is in the grip of a “third wave” of infections,” noted SANEF’s chair Sbu Ngalwa.

“While the government’s vaccination programme has received mixed reactions and, at times, criticised for being slow, SANEF believes the media needs to cover the process in a fair, accurate and balanced manner tackling disinformation, misinformation and myths surrounding the pandemic and the vaccines,” he said.

Internews’ Country Director in South Africa, Teldah Mawarire said the organisation had commissioned the guide after research showed the need for a local guide that guided journalists through the pandemic.

A wide range of media contributed to the guide with chapters that cover the journalists’ ethical role in a pandemic, personal safety, mental health considerations, working agreements, the basics of health and science reporting, an overview of vaccinations, fact-checking, and dealing with stigma.

“South African journalists have been reporting from the frontlines of this pandemic – often at great personal and emotional cost to themselves and their families,” said fraycollege CEO Paula Fray.

“We are pleased that we have been able to support SANEF and Internews South Africa in producing this much-needed guide,” she added.

“As journalists, we should not lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with a deadly virus, and we should never drop our guards. We must always be conscious of the potential danger of contracting the virus in the field,” said Ngalwa.

SANEF initiated the project to ensure local journalists were able to draw on best practices in an African context. The guide was developed through a consultative process involving community and science journalists to ensure the guide was in line with the needs of South African reporters and society at large. It was written by a team of credible and experienced writers and signed off by the SANEF’s Education and Training committee which has experienced editors and academics.

Access the guide here:


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