JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The South African government said Thursday that it is assuming powers to censor or close newspapers and magazines that it believes are promoting revolution.
Stoffel Botha, the minister of home affairs, told Parliament in Cape Town that new government restrictions will be imposed today under the 14-month-old state of emergency to give him greater authority to curb, censor and even silence what he called "revolution-supportive media."
South Africa's present censorship regulations, despite their already sweeping nature, are insufficient, Botha said, to halt "the present flood of revolutionary propaganda."
The liberal opposition Progressive Federal Party attacked the regulations as a further diminution of political freedom.
"The lights of press freedom are steadily going out in our country," David Dalling, a Progressive Federal member of Parliament, said. "We should remember that once these lights are extinguished, it sometimes takes years, even decades, to rekindle them."
Under the new regulations, the home affairs minister will have the power to warn publications that he believes have been "systematically or repeatedly" publishing "material promoting revolution or uprising" that they are "a threat to public security or the maintenance of public order."
If they continue to publish such material, he may close them for up to three months or permit them to operate only under censorship.
Although Botha did not name any newspapers, the government's targets are clearly the increasingly influential "alternative press," particularly the New Nation, a radical black-edited newspaper financed by the Roman Catholic Church and widely read in black townships around Johannesburg, the liberal Weekly Mail and newsletters published by anti-apartheid groups.
"The enforcement will be aimed at the optimal maintenance of democratic processes," Botha told Parliament, assuring the legislators that the leftist "alternative media," not the mainstream opposition press, are the intended targets of the new measures.