- Bhekisisa got a merit award from the National Press Club for our COVID-19 reporting.
- This is our fifth award for our journalism around the pandemic.
- In June, editor-in-chief, Mia Malan, won the editorial category of the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism awards and in 2021 our team received the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s annual reconciliation award.
On Thursday, the National Press Club honoured Bhekisisa with one of its two annual merit awards for our reporting on the COVID pandemic.
“Throughout it all, the Bhekisisa team has fearlessly reported the facts and the science — while being mercilessly trolled — to keep South Africans up to date with the various waves, the daily COVID figures, the ministerial briefings,” said the National Press Club’s chairperson, Antoinette Slabbert.
“We commend you for proving how vital science journalism, and health journalism, are at a time when it feels that peddlers of mis- and disinformation are winning. But as long as we have Bhekisisa, we know they will not win”.
The other merit award went to News24’s investigative team for their reporting that uncovered a multimillion-rand tender network in the Gauteng health department, that was first flagged by Babita Deokaran, the department whistleblower who was gunned down outside her home in August last year.
This is our fifth COVID journalism award
Bhekisisa editor, Mia Malan says: “As a public interest journalism organisation, we’re humbled to accept this award. We had a small reporting team during the first two years of the pandemic, who really did work fearlessly, but who were so passionate about what they did that they went beyond their call of duty every single day.”
This is the fifth award that our team has received for our COVID-19 journalism. In June, Malan won the editorial category of the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards for her op-ed on the prejudice that underlined western countries’ decision to implement travel bans for Africa during the Omicron wave and in 2020 she won the same category at the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Northern Region awards for a comment piece on the politics of pandemics.
In 2021, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation awarded Bhekisisa their annual reconciliation award for our pandemic reporting and the Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke Institute gave Malan their Women of Firsts Excellence In Public Health Award for making pandemic science accessible.
For 800 days stretching over 2020 to 2022, our team published daily maps with COVID case numbers and vaccination figures and right through the pandemic we tried to bring science and policies together in a way that was easy to understand.
In 2021 alone, our team did close to 400 radio and television interviews that broke down COVID policies and science.
The power of pandemic reporting lies in partnerships
“The most important lesson we learned during COVID was that accurate information is useless if people don’t understand it,” says Malan. “That’s why we spent so much time translating scientific and policy language into ordinary speak.
“But we could never have done this without the help of South Africa’s scientists or collaboration with other media organisations.
“The power of pandemic reporting lies in partnerships.”