Getting the Real Story: Censorship and Propaganda in South Africa


120 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55059-009-X
DDC 303.3'76'0968




Edited by Gerald B. Sperling and James E. McKenzie

Rudolf Carl Nassar is Co-ordinator of the Humanities Department at
Champlain Regional College in Lennoxville, Quebec, and teaches courses
in journalism and international politics.


Perhaps the best way to describe this extraordinary collection of papers
about the press and apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s (before
President F.W. de Klerk embarked on his program of reforms) is to borrow
a phrase from well-known South African novelist André Brink. Brink used
the phrase “Writing in a State of Siege”—the title of his
autobiographical essays—to sum up his lifelong commitment to exposing
the harsh realities of apartheid in a country determined to muzzle the

Like Brink, the journalists who presented the papers in this book at a
conference on the media in South Africa at the University of Regina in
March 1989 were working in a state of siege, struggling in the late
1980s under the full weight of Draconian emergency laws to get the real
story of South Africa out to their people and the rest of the world.

The situation they faced in South Africa under the state of emergency
was grim and urgent. More than 5000 people had been killed in
anti-apartheid protests and at least 30,000 more had been arrested
without being charged. Everywhere in the beleaguered country journalists
were being harassed, threatened, and jailed for questioning the official
story, covering demonstrations declared off limits to the press,
reporting the views of banned opposition leaders, or violating any of
the numerous censorship regulations and press restrictions designed to
gag and intimidate the press. It was a time when many journalists in
South Africa, as one co-editor of this volume notes, “expected their
profession would lead them to an early death.”

Even though the situation in South Africa has changed since then, the
personal accounts of how these journalists dealt with the repression of
those years make worthwhile reading. In the trying times ahead South
Africa will still need journalists with an unwavering commitment to a
free, independent, and critical press, who will continue the ongoing
struggle for free speech and the people’s right to know. When read in
this light, the personal accounts of South African journalists contained
in this book are instructive.

In addition to the accounts and insights of South African journalists,
the book includes valuable contributions from a number of foreign
correspondents, filmmakers, tv news producers, columnists, broadcasters,
and scholars who have been deeply involved in the South Africa story.
Together the contributors provide a detailed picture of the practice of
journalism in a state of siege and shed much light on the question of
censorship and the efforts of the media to combat it. The editors should
be thanked for making that picture available to a wider audience.


“Getting the Real Story: Censorship and Propaganda in South Africa,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed March 1, 2024,