Press freedom in South Africa, The history of
South Africa has a history of controversial legislation regarding the freedom of the press. This article provides a detailed analysis of the history of this struggle for freedom in the Cape, the old Transvaal, Orange Free State and Natal.
Media Park in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, is the home of several local publications, including newspapers. Beeld
The history begins with Governor Sir George Yonge granting a monopoly in printing to Messrs Walker and Robertson by the proclamation of 21 July 1800. The result was that the government soon assumed control of the only printing press. The sole publication was the ...view middle of the document...
The acting governor, General Richard Bourke, however, favoured a free press, and Fairbairn secured permission from the colonial secretary in England, Sir George Murray, for a law to be passed on the English model. The resultant Ordinance No 60 (1829) put an end to the proclamation of 21 July 1800. No licence to publish was called for, but no one was to publish a newspaper until he had delivered an affidavit to the Cape colonial secretary containing its title, a description of the printing-house and the names and addresses of the editor, printer, publisher and proprietor, sworn to by each of them.
These details had to be printed on some part of the newspaper. Further, no one was to print or publish a newspaper until he had entered into a recognisance of £300 with sureties, each for £300, conditioned to pay any fine or penalty imposed for publishing blasphemous or seditious libel. No one so convicted could act as a newspaper editor, printer, publisher or proprietor.
The final stage in the freeing of the press came with the passing of Act No 8 of 1859, with a preamble dwelling on the great benefits that had been derived "from the printing and publishing of newspapers and papers of alike nature in this colony" and stating that "all necessary remedies against abuses of the liberty of the press are provided for by the law of libel". Ordinance No 60 (1829) was repealed.
The sole requirement was that every newspaper or other printed work printed or published in the colony would have to contain the name and address of the printer. A slight tightening-up of the law resulted from the passing of the Newspaper Registration Act, No 29 of 1884, prohibiting the printing and publication of any newspaper until its title and the name and address of its proprietor were registered with the civil commissioner of the district.
Press law in the old Transvaal
Article nineteen of the original constitution of the Transvaal Republic stated that freedom of the press is granted, provided the printer and publisher remain responsible for all publications that contain libellous, insulting or defamatory matter. Articles nineteen of the 1889 and 1896 constitutions repeated this 'grant'.
President Kruger, through the executive council, proposed a draft press law. The resultant Law No 11 of 1893 was described by Justice E J P Jorissen as a limitation on the freedom of the press, not by way of a preventive measure such as governmental censorship, but through punishing offences by journalists more severely (Hess versus The State (1895) 2 Official Report 112 at 128: Hess versus Den Staat (1895) 2 Official Rapport 139 at 159). The preamble to the law stated that it was necessary to carry into effect article nineteen of the constitution. No one was to print or publish a newspaper unless a sworn statement was furnished to the state secretary setting out the names of the newspaper and of the responsible editor, publisher and owner. At the end of every newspaper would have to...