Emergence of an authoritarian democracy: the ghost of Nat Nakasa


  • Keneilwe Radebe University of Pretoria, South Africa




This article reflects on a troubling resemblance between the times of apartheid-era journalist Nat Nakasa and the SABC 8, a group of post-apartheid journalists who robustly challenged a Protest Policy introduced by the SABC’s Chief Operating Officer in May 2016. The policy in question restricted media coverage of public protests involving the destruction of state property and was arguably introduced as a way to limit public dissent and public participation in service delivery woes and corruption. I argue that the implementation of policies aiming to curb public criticism of the government strongly recalls the National Party censorship laws aimed at preventing condemnation of its apartheid policies. Similar to the conditions that defined the times of Nat Nakasa, a culture of fear and silence is once again being instilled in journalists at the state-owned SABC. I further show that apart from the SABC being seen as a threat to journalists, the introduction of the Protection of State Information Bill B6D-2010 and the proposed introduction of the Media Appeals Board are also prominent examples of the disappointing resemblance between the current South African governmnet’s actions and apartheid censorship laws. I conclude the article by arguing that we are witnessing the emergence of an authoritarain democracy and that the current relationship between the media and the state indeed reflect a post-democracy.


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