The manipulation of public opinion by state censorship of the media in South Africa (1974-1994)

Breytenbach, Malene M. (1997-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 1997.

Thesis

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Tussen die tydperk 1974 en 1994, terwyl blanke heerskappy in suidelike Afrika stelselmatig beeindig is en die blanke regering van Suid-Afrika die laaste domino in die reeks was wat geval het, het die regering die media en alle publikasies doelbewus gemanipuleer en sensuur toegepas om te voorkom dat die bevolking hul veggees verloor en om die indruk te wek dat die regering staande sou bly. Die regering het andersdenkendes, gebalanseerde verslaggewing en kritiek as 'n bedreiging ervaar, aangesien dit wel deeglik daarvan bewus was dat dit nie die steun van die meerderheid van die bevolking gehad het nie. Die Afrikaanse pers en die Suid-Afrikaanse Uitsaaikorporasie, wat onder regeringsbeheer was, het horn oorwegend gesteun, maar die Engelstalige, swart, buitelandse en altematiewe pers was almal teenstanders of vyandig. Uiteindelik het sommige van die Afrikaanse media ook krities geraak. Vryheid van spraak word as die lewensbloed van die demokrasie beskou, aangesien dit verseker dat regerings verantwoording aan die samelewing doen. Suid Afrika het daarop aanspraak gemaak dat dit die "vryste pers in Afrika" gehad het. In werklikheid was dit slegs 'n gedeeltelike demokrasie wat staande gehou is deur verskeie selfverdedigingsmeganismes soos die beleid van apartheid en die skepping van "tuislande" waar die stemlose swart burgers by hul plekke van oorsprong gestem het en nie in die blank-gedomineerde Parlement nie. In werklikheid het die Suid-Afrikaanse regering die uitwerking van die media op 'n verdeelde samelewing gevrees. Die rasse moes 'n vreedsame naasbestaan voer. Daar is erken dat dit die grondslag van wet en orde gevorm het. As dit nie verwesenlik kon word nie, sou 'n uitdelgingsoorlog of 'n gewelddadige rewolusie gelei deur vryheidsbewegings soos die ANC, kon uitbreek. Die blankes het die mag gehad maar was in die minderheid. Alhoewel die regering heelwat bestee het om stabiliteit en mag te behou, het sekere elemente en gebeurtenisse die mag verweer. Gebeurtenisse soos die lnligtingskandaal, die Angolese oorlog, militere diensplig en die hoe koste verbonde aan die behoud van die ou bedeling, het ontnugtering in die hand gewerk. Ook was daar die alomteenwoordige bedreiging van die vryheidsbewegings wat gewag het om mag oor te neem en in die proses daarin geslaag het om Suid-Afrika kultureel, ekonomies en polities te isoleer. Dit het die regering verswak totdat dit genoop is om krisisbestuur toe te pas terwyl 'n lae-intensiteit, senutergende oorlog voortdurend gevoer moes word, wat senutergend was. Uiteindelik het te veel landsburgers begin besef die apartheidsbeleid het misluk en dat voortbestaan afgehang het van 'n onderhandelde oorgang wat aan demokratiese eise sou voldoen. Na die vasberade stelling wat deur leiers soos BJ Vorster en PW Botha ingeneem is, het die laaste blanke president van Suid-Afrika, FW de Klerk, die bevrydingsproses aan die gang gesit, wat die ontbanning van die ANC, die vrystelling van politieke gevangenes en die beeindiging van die noodtoestand meegebring het. In 1993 het 'n nuwe Grondwet die van 1983 vervang. Dit het beteken dat die pers vryer geword het en daar weer 'n reg op inligting sou wees soos die Menseregtehandves sou verorden. Totdat die FW de Klerk-era aangebreek het, was die media onder toenemende druk om gebeurtenisse weer te gee soos dit die regering gepas het. Beperkende wetgewing is opgele met die doel om staatsveiligheid te handhaaf en 'n gunstiger beeld na buite te projekteer, asook om sogenaamde rewolusionere anti-Suid-Afrikaanse verslaggewing en propaganda te keer. Die Weermag en Polisie en regeringsinstansies soos die Buro vir lnligting en die hele Nasionale Veiligheidstelsel het dit toegepas. Die vernaamste meganisme waardeur die pers gemuilband is, veral die ondersoekende buitelandse pers, was die aankondiging van opeenvolgende noodtoestande toe die aanslag teen die ou bedeling op sy felste was. Ten spyte van die moedeloosheid van sommige mediapraktisyns en die verbete pogings tot geheimhouding van regeringskant, is nuus oor Suid-Afrika steeds die wereld ingestuur. In 'n era van hoetegnologie-kommunikasie en satelliete kan feite nie meer verberg word nie. Mense met die waagmoed om ondersoek in te stel na, en die waarheid bloot te le oor die interne en eksterne reperkussies vir Suid-Afrika terwyl die blanke regering ten gronde gegaan en 'n nuwe bedeling vorm aangeneem het, kon eenvoudig nie die swye opgele word nie.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: During the period 1974 to 1994, when the demise of white rule took place in Southern Africa, ending with the white regime of South Africa, the last of a series of falling dominoes, the government of the latter deliberately manipulated and censored the media and all publications to prevent a breakdown in the morale of the country and to appear indestructible. The government perceived dissidence, balanced reporting and criticism as a threat, knowing that it did not have the support of the majority of the people. It had support from the Afrikaans press and the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which was under its control, but the English-language, black, foreign and alternative press were strongly oppositional and adversarial. Finally, some of the Afrikaans media also became critical of its policies. Freedom of speech is considered to be the life-blood of democracy, because it makes governments accountable to the people. It was claimed that South Africa had the "freest press in Africa", but South Africa was only a partial democracy, achieved through various selfdefence policies such as apartheid and the creation of "homelands" where the disenfranchised black citizens could vote at their places of origin and not for the white-dominated parliament. In fact, the South African government greatly feared the effects of the media on a divided society. Peaceful coexistence had to be maintained between the races. This was admitted to form the basis of law and order. If this could not be achieved, a war of attrition or a bloody revolution led by liberation movements such as the ANC could break out. The whites were in power but were in the minority. While the government went to great and costly lengths to maintain stability and hold onto power, certain elements and occurrences eroded its power. Disillusionment with government was brought about by the Information Department scandal, the Angolan war, disruptive military service and the high costs attached to maintaining the old order. There was also the looming threat of liberation movements which wanted to seize power. In the process they succeeded in isolating South Africa culturally, economically and politically. This caused the regime to weaken. It was forced to apply crisis management in a low-key, unending war, which also became a war of nerves. Finally, many citizens began to realise that the apartheid policy had failed and that survival depended on a negotiated transition accommodating democratic demands. After the grim determination to hold onto power displayed by leaders such as BJ Vorster and PW Botha, the last white president of South Africa, FW de Klerk, was the person to start the liberalisation process, including the unbanning of the ANC, the release of political prisoners and the lifting of the state of emergency. In 1993 a new Constitution replaced the 1983 Constitution. This meant a freer press and guaranteed the right to information as stipulated in the Bill of Rights that had yet to be enacted. Until the FW de Klerk era dawned, the media were increasingly under severe pressure to portray events in the way government viewed the political situation. For the sake of state security and the projection of a more favourable image to the outside world and ultimately to withstand revolutionary anti-South African reportage and propaganda, restrictive legislation was imposed; the armed and police forces and government bodies such as the Bureau for Information and the whole National Security Management System served this purpose. The ultimate control mechanism to muzzle the press, especially the probing foreign press, was to declare successive states of emergency during the era when the onslaught against the old order was at its height. Nevertheless, despite the despair of the media practitioners and the efforts of the government, news about South Africa was still disseminated to the outside world. In an era of high technology communication facts could no longer be suppressed. It was impossible to silence those who investigated, probed, ferreted and dared to tell the truth about the internal and external repercussions confronting South Africa, and how the demise of the white government was taking place while a more liberated order was taking shape.

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