S. Africa Reimposes Curbs on Journalists’ Reporting
The government today reimposed an order barring journalists from reporting the actions of security forces, and also added tough new restrictions.
The order, issued by Police Commissioner Johan Coetzee and published in the official government gazette, prohibits journalists from being at the scene or “within sight” of any unrest, restricted gathering or security force action.
An order barring unauthorized reports of security force action was issued June 12 in conjunction with the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency.
But a government attorney conceded two weeks ago that the order was improperly promulgated because it was not published in the government gazette.
Since then, journalists have been advised by attorneys to treat the order as invalid and have reported such security force actions as the police shootings of 20 blacks in Soweto last week.
The state of emergency was imposed in an effort to curb daily outbreaks of racial violence. More than 2,100 people have been killed, nearly all of them blacks, since the current wave of violence began in September, 1984.
Eve of Mass Funeral
The new order prohibiting reports on the actions of security forces was issued on the eve of a planned mass funeral in Soweto for at least 20 blacks killed by police there last week.
The government has banned the mass funeral, and thus the event, if held in defiance of the ban, will be classified as a “restricted gathering” that would be off limits to journalists in terms of the order.
Because of the government’s concession that the June 12 order was improperly promulgated, journalists felt free to report unofficial accounts of security force action during the clashes in Soweto on Aug. 26.
As a result, anti-apartheid groups were able to obtain coverage of their contentions that police began the violence by firing without provocation at people emerging from a rent boycott meeting.