A new threat to freedom in South Africa

The attempt to strangle free speech in post-Apartheid South Africa…


South African President Jacob Zuma © linh.m.do


Is South Africa seeing the return of an unwanted past? Writing in the NYRB, Nadine Gordimer says that after all the hard-won freedoms, the country is again trying to suppress free speech with new media laws.

The dark past under the country’s minority white governments:

The regime of racism in South Africa was maintained not only by brutality—guns, violence, restrictive laws. It was upheld by elaborately extensive silencing of freedom of expression…

The Publications and Entertainments Act of the apartheid regime banned thousands of newspapers and books in South Africa from 1950 to 1990. The works of world-famous writers, including D.H. Lawrence, Richard Wright, Henry Miller, and Vladimir Nabokov, were prohibited along with the novels and nonfiction works of South African writers, including Todd Matshikiza, Bloke Modisane, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Lewis Nkosi, André Brink, Can Themba, and three of my own novels. Among the taboo subjects of everyday life was sexual relations between white and black. In the 1970s the films Jesus Christ SuperstarA Clockwork Orange, and The Canterbury Tales were prohibited.

And on present day bills that have attempted to ressurrect elements of censorhip:

In the new South Africa that was reborn in the early 1990s, with its freedom hard-won from apartheid, we now have the imminent threat of updated versions of the suppression of freedom of expression that gagged us under apartheid. The right to know must continue to accompany the right to vote that black, white, and any other color of our South African population could all experience for the first time in 1994. But since 2010 there have been two parliamentary bills introduced that seek to deny that right: the Protection of State Information Bill and the Media Tribunal…

If established, the tribunal will require journalists to submit to it the subjects they intend to investigate or have investigated and will write about. They must inform the tribunal of these subjects so it can decide whether they pose a threat to state security.


Read more at The New York Review of Books