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Pretoria's Curb of News on Banned Groups Faces Test

January 11, 1987|From Times Wire Services

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — This country's two largest English-language newspaper chains said Saturday they will challenge in court the new press restrictions on reporting about the African National Congress and other outlawed organizations.

The restrictions were issued at midnight Thursday after a score of newspapers across the country published paid advertisements marking the 75th anniversary of the African National Congress, the most important armed group fighting apartheid, under the headline "Unban the ANC."

The restrictions were issued under national emergency powers by the minister of law and order and the commissioner of police. They bar newspapers from publishing any ad or report calculated to improve or promote the public image of a banned organization. They also prohibit any report that explains or justifies or supports any action by an outlawed group.

Lawyers for the Argus chain and South African Associated Newspapers said they intend to challenge the new bans in a hearing expected to be held this week. They contend that the restrictions exceed the powers given to Commissioner of Police Johan Coetzee because they are vague and exceed what is reasonable or necessary.

Right to Be Informed

Rex Gibson, acting editor of The Star of Johannesburg, said in an affidavit that the restrictions make unwarranted inroads into the public's right to be informed and put editors in daily peril of penalties up to 10 years in jail or fines of $9,000 if they publish something now considered subversive.

Tertius Myburgh, publisher of the Sunday Times, said in his affidavit, "There are now vast areas of activity which are of crucial public importance, and which we believe readers will regard as essential in the planning of their private lives, about which they can no longer be informed."

He said his newspaper in its editorials has deplored the strategies of the African National Congress, but believes it is important that readers know about those strategies.

Meanwhile, eight black gold miners were reported killed and 53 injured in fighting at the Beatrix mine in the Orange Free State. A spokesman for the General Union Mining Corp. said the cause of the clash was not immediately clear. Hundreds of black miners have died in fighting in the past year, mainly as a result of violence among tribal factions.

The government's Bureau for Information said a 20-year-old white constable was killed and two colleagues were injured when a grenade was thrown into a patrol car in the township of Guguletu near Cape Town.

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