The South African rhino has received the National Press Club – Aon South Africa Newsmaker of the Year award for 2012.
National Press Club Chairperson Antoinette Slabbert said at the awards event in Pretoria this evening that rhino poaching had been in the news consistently the entire year, evoking strong emotions.
“In many respects history was made last year – a record number of 668 rhinos were poached, a harsh sentence of 40 years for a kingpin in the poaching industry was handed down and an international accord to try and stop poaching was signed, to name a few.
“The onslaught on these African giants has not only resulted in much debate in the country and elsewhere in the world, but has also united people to rally behind campaigns against the bleeding of our heritage. It is critical for governments, corporates, individuals and the media to stand up and take action to stop the killing of our rhinos,” said Slabbert.
Aon South Africa’s Chief Executive Officer Anton Roux said the award recognised the efforts of ordinary people, the courts, government, SANParks and other conservation bodies and law enforcement agencies to stop rhino poaching.
“While the rhino has dominated headlines for all the wrong reasons, the media has played a fundamental role in informing not only South Africans, but the world, about the massive tragedy that is unfolding in our country. The media coverage has been pivotal in being able to galvanise the breadth of South African society in the fight to save one of our big five icons. South Africa’s rhino heritage is a precious privilege that can never be forfeited.
“Aon South Africa is proud to be associated with the fight against rhino poaching with our own insurance programmes. The fact that the rhino is now our newsmaker of the year further demonstrates just how urgent this fight is. South Africa’s media is a fundamental driver of awareness and action and we fully support this continued focus in the hope that we will turn the corner very soon on the criminal, cruel and immoral practice of rhino poaching.
“Aon South Africa is proud to be associated with such an award that recognises issues that capture public sentiment and fuel open, democratic debate.”
Slabbert said the award is made on the grounds of impact, news value and media attention in electronic, print, online and social media.
The club is synonymous with the Newsmaker of the Year award. Over the years the club has recognised and awarded many newsmakers. Previous recipients include President Jacob Zuma, former presidents FW de Klerk, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
Other newsmakers include Hollywood star Charlize Theron, Zachie Achmat and the Treatment Action Campaign, the late Hansie Cronj� and various other sporting personalities, DA Leader Helen Zille, ESKOM and Cope and FIFA’s Sepp Blatter and Danny Jordaan also received the award in recent years. Last year the newsmakers were Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Julius Malema.
The winner of the National Press Club-North-West University Journalist of the Year competition was also announced at the function. For the first time in the history of the competition, the overall winner was a photographer, Corn�l van Heerden of Foto24.