At a time when print media is under enormous pressure, from government as well as the impact of the global recession, honouring journalists, editors or media owners for their integrity and fearlessness in reporting has never been more important.
Print Media South Africa, the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) and the Nieman Society have opened the nomination process for the 2012 Nat Nakasa Award for Media Integrity.
The award recognises any media practitioner, whether journalist, editor, manager or owner, who has:
- Shown integrity and reported fearlessly;
- Displayed a commitment to serve the people of South Africa;
- Tenaciously striven to maintain a publication or other medium despite insurmountable obstacles;
- Resisted any censorship;
- Shown courage in making information available to the South African public; or
- Any combination of the above.
It is worth looking back to the man who inspired the creation of the award, Nat Nakasa.
“The truth is that he was a new kind of man in South Africa he accepted without question and with easy dignity and natural pride his Africanness, and he took equally for granted that his identity as a man among men, a human among fellow humans, could not be legislated out of existence, even by all the apartheid laws in the statute book, or all the racial prejudice in this country. He did not calculate the population as sixteen millions or four millions, but as twenty. He belonged not between two worlds, but to both. And in him one could see the hope of one world. He has left that hope behind; there will be others to take it up.” — Nadine Gordimer, The World of Nat Nakasa
His is not a pretty story. Born in Durban, he moved to Johannesburg to work as a journalist for Drum magazine, Golden City Post and also the Rand Daily Mail, where he was employed to give a black perspective on South Africa in the dark days of the 1960s.
In 1964, he was awarded the first Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University, the start of a tradition that sees a South Africa journalist take up the Fellowship on an annual basis. Of course, the apartheid government rejected his application for a passport, and Nakasa had to leave South Africa on an exit permit that did not allow him to return.
After leaving Harvard, he continued to write for various newspapers in the US, and was planning a biography on Miriam Makeba. According to excerpt from his biography on the Sanef website, “Nakasa grew increasingly homesick, isolated and unhappy, although this was not largely apparent to those around him. Says (Essop) Patel of his death at the age of 28, ‘Nat Nakasa’s death by suicide on 14 July 1965 was an apartheid tragedy, and a tragedy of exile. After his year at Harvard, he wrote extensively for several newspapers and magazines in the United States. He appeared in the television film The Fruit of Fear, a critique of apartheid, and was to have written a biography of Miriam Makeba. But two days before his death he told a friend, ‘I can’t laugh any more and when I can’t laugh I can’t write’.”
In a piece titled ‘It’s difficult to decide my identity’, he wrote, “My people are South Africans. Mine is the history of the Great Trek. Gandhi’s passive resistance in Johannesburg, the wars of Cetewayo and the dawn raids which gave us the treason trials of 1956. All these are South African things. They are part of me.”
The Nat Nakasa Award for Media Integrity is an important award, one that honours the legacy of a man who, as Sanef says, if he were alive today, “perhaps he would have been a diplomat or politician, perhaps a prominent editor or a major publisher. One thing is certain – whatever lofty post we could dream up for him now, one thing he would remain … a writer”.
So, who or what organisation should win that award in South Africa 2012?
Please submit your nomination before 28 June 2012, accompanied by a motivation of 300 words to:
2nd Floor, 7 St Davids
St Davids Office Park
Tel: (011) 551-9600
Fax: (011) 551-9650