THE South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has sounded the alarm after the Huffington Post and Media24 announced the closure of the SA news website.

Media24 and HuffPost last week announced the end of their licence partnership signed in November 2016 – and the website closed shortly leaving over 30 employees stranded.

On Monday Media24 and HuffPost announced plans to mutually end its South Africa licence. The companies launched HuffPost South Africa as a partnership in November 2016, with Media24 operating the newsroom and driving the commercial aspect of the partnership.

News of the closure came just weeks after Afro Voice, formerly known as The New Age, announced it would be shutting down, leaving many journalists without a job.

Sanef’s Kate Skinner says the current trend in worrying as it threatens the diversity of South African media.

“Sanef is very worried about a number of issues; obviously we’re worried about the journalists who potentially might lose their jobs and other issue is you’ve got another voice that has now closed,” she said.

Announcing the decision to shut down HuffPost SA, Media24 CEO said: “We regularly review our portfolio of brands. The HuffPost SA audience numbers are strong and consistently hold steady on the list of top-10 news sites in South Africa.

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“HuffPost SA was an important new voice in South African journalism and attracted a fresh new audience. Advertising revenues for HuffPost in South Africa have, however, been challenging. As an innovative and responsible business, we will continue to respond effectively to the market’s needs and explore new digital opportunities.”

HuffPost SA was ranked the ninth biggest news site in South Africa in June with a readership of 1,63 million unique users, according to Effective Measure.

Jared Grusd, CEO of HuffPost, said: “We are proud of the editorial work and journalism from the South African edition and commend its ability to scale a loyal audience in such a short period of time. We continue to invest and grow HuffPost’s capabilities and audience, both globally and in the African continent.”

Editor Pieter du Toit also expressed his disappointment.

“It is a sad day for all of us at HuffPost. We’ve built a loyal audience and we’ve enjoyed growing an international brand in South Africa,” he said.

“We operated in a difficult commercial environment, which underscores the situation journalism finds itself in. I’m happy that we have been able to build a large audience and that we are bowing out as a growing title.”

Media24 is South Africa’s leading media company with interests in digital media and services, newspapers, magazines, ecommerce, book publishing, printing and distribution.