Sanef was formed out of two racially-based bodies of senior editorial members – after some tough rounds of negotiation. It has since experienced difficult decisions and splits, and overcome these – to become a body of influence accepted by both media companies and government.

April 2003

Sanef convened the All Africa Editors’ Conference – held in Midrand, Johannesburg, from 11 to 13 April 2003.

Sanef’s media freedom committee, under the leadership of Henry Jeffreys, conceived the idea of the conference in 2002. It was born in the context of the African Union (AU) being launched to replace the OAU, and the Nepad initiative gaining momentum towards peer review. Both developments spoke to democracy, and media leaders thus needed to figure out how speak to, and with, this new agenda. In contrast, hundreds of journalists around the continent were being harrassed, notwithstanding some improvements in the decade since the Windhoek Declaration of 1991.

The theme was “The Media, the African Union, Nepad and Democracy”.

Besides the SA President Thabo Mbeki, speakers included Dr Barney Pityana (formerly of the SA Human Rights Commission), Gwen Lister (The Namibian), Mathatha Tsedu (Sanef), John Mukela (NSJ) and Fatou Jagne (Article 19). Guest speaker Pius Njawe had visa problems and was unable to attend.

130 editors from 32 countries in Africa debated their role and decided to start a pan-African forum – around half the delegates were South African.  It was decided that the continental body would be made up of five regional bodies (regions as defined by the AU). The regional bodies would be made up of representatives from national bodies. Membership would be editors, senior editorial executives and senior journalism trainers/educators. A steering committee of five members was chosen.

November 2003

In Southern Africa, each of the 10 countries formed national bodies (except Angola) – and met on 29 and 30 November 2003 in Johannesburg to form the Southern Africa Editors’ Forum (Saef), convened by Sanef. The biggest initial issue was the split between state and independent editors – and sometimes the existence of two editors’ forums within one country – initially seen in Zimbabwe but later seen in other countries such as Ethiopia. Taef started to learn how to deal with this by signaling talks on the common issues that editors shared, such as quality of journalism and training. At a later stage Saef set up a officer who shared an office with Sanef, but operated separately, for a few years.

Regular meetings

The Taef steering committee met about twice a year from 2003, with members from South, East, West and Central, arranged in SA by Sanef. Taef has met every year since 2003 at Highway Africa – initially the small committee and guests, but soon replaced by a Mancom and Editors’ Council. All meetings are held in French and English.


May 2005

On May 3 2005 – World Press Freedom Day – Taef initiated a continent-wide campaign to celebrate this day and to remember Deyda Hydara, Gambian editor of The Point, who had been at our 2003 conference but had been assassinated on 16 December 2004. The West region held celebrations.

October 2005

In Western Africa, some countries already had editors’ organizations, while in others it was difficult to create national forums (funding, restrictions, etc). It was decided to first form the regional body and from there promote the formation of national ones. After a meeting of editors in Ougadougou, the Forum des éditeurs d’Afrique de l’Ouest (Formao) was launched on 3 to 5 October 2005 in Conakry.

October 2005

The Founding conference of The Africa Editors’ Forum (TAEF), entitled “Reporting Africa for Africans and the world”, was held from 15 to 17 October 2005 in Kempton Park, South Africa, and attended by editors from 30 countries. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, was unable to attend but sent a message, and President Thabo Mbeki gave the opening speech and took questions. A Constitution was agreed on, and a Management Committee elected. The vision was that Taef would be the representative voice of all of Africa’s senior editors – in print, broadcast and online media – on issues such as the quality of journalism, training and media freedom. Initially, the plan was for the conference to be held in DRC, Ethiopia or Ghana; however Johannesburg was the easiest place to both get funding and to fly people into.