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Mail & Guardian, South Africa
A beacon of investigative journalism in print and online
The Mail and Guardian, founded in 1985 as The Weekly Mail, was the first paper in South Africa to ignore racial allegiance in its selection and coverage of news and to discuss issues such as homosexuality and gender in a balanced way. It built up an international reputation as a vocal critic of apartheid in the 1980s, leading to a series of clashes with the government, culminating in the paper’s temporary suspension in 1988.
Since then, M&G has become widely known and respected as the leading investigative journalism newspaper in the region, with a trailblazing digital news operation and a commitment to quality, ethical journalism.
It has a proud record of holding the powerful to account and exposing corruption. Among its major successes were its breaking of the “Inkathagate” scandal in 1991 – which revealed that police funds were being secretly channeled to the political party Inkatha to block the African National Congress (ANC) and led to the downfall of two cabinet ministers – and its investigation of former police chief Jackie Selebi that led to his receiving a 15-year jail term for corruption in 2010.
In 2004, M&G broke another corruption story that attracted international attention and shook South African politics. The series of investigative articles into “Oilgate” continued into 2005 and revealed a political scandal in which US$1.5 million of state oil money went to ANC party coffers shortly before the elections.
“Oilgate” was an important milestone for South African media, showing that the independent press could play a significant role in revealing corruption and conflicts of interest that can undermine democracy. M&G received multiple awards for the coverage, including Vodacom Journalist of the Year, Mondi Shanduka Newspaper Awards and the Media Institute of South Africa’s John Manyarara Investigative Journalism Award. The articles have been praised as thoroughly researched, well written and analytical, demonstrating the “highest levels” of balanced and fair reporting. As described by the Vodacom awards, Oilgate will “forever be remembered as a beacon of investigative journalism” in South Africa.
The print and digital editions continue to win numerous awards for their coverage, including in 2013 alone the SAB Environmental Media award, the Multimedia category prize at the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards and the main prize in science journalism in the Siemens Pan-African Profile Awards.
MDIF provided working capital that enabled the management to transform the newspaper into a financially viable digital and print business.