SA editor declared press freedom hero

2010-05-19 11:05

South African editor Laurence Gandar was today declared a World

Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute (IPI), and will be

honoured at a ceremony in September.

The IPI said: “Gandar will be posthumously honoured at the IPI

World Congress for his long years of dedication to the press in South Africa and

his profoundly transformative effect on the political landscape of the

country.

“Gandar was editor of the Johannesburg-based Rand Daily Mail from

1957 to 1969, leading the paper at a time when the country it served was going

through a sea change. Under Gandar’s leadership, the paper became, in the words

of his long-time collaborator Benjamin Pogrund, ‘the flag-bearer of liberal

opposition to apartheid’ in South Africa.

“He introduced investigative journalism to South Africa and

encouraged new and incisive reporting which investigated the effects of

apartheid including the jailing of black activists at a time when these issues

were largely ignored by the mainstream media.”

Former editor of the Rand Daily Mail and IPI World Press Freedom

Hero, jury chairperson Raymond Louw, who worked with Gandar, said he was the

first editor to turn a major South African newspaper into a crusader for human

rights.

Louw said: “He transformed the opposition press in South Africa not

only into a campaigning force, but into a courageous and determined defender,

supporter and promoter of press freedom.”

IPI director David Dadge said: “While under enormous pressure from

the South African government and its security services, Laurence Gandar told the

appalling story of the apartheid period in South Africa.”

The organisation said Gandar was regularly in trouble with the

authorities for “his dedication to the truth“, and alienated many readers and

advertisers as a result of his progressive political editorials and opinion

pieces, written under the pseudonym of Owen Vine, his two middle names.

In 1965, as a result of a series of reports on prison conditions by

Pogrund, Gandar and Pogrund were tried under the Prisons Act and found

guilty.

Pogrund was given a suspended jail sentence, and Gandar was fined.

His passport was confiscated while his paper suffered repeated police raids, the

infiltration of police spies into its newsroom, the tapping of telephones, and

the arrest and detention of its journalists.

He had been previously fired by the board of directors of the

paper, ostensibly because of plummeting circulation figures, a decision which

was reversed when the senior editorial staff threatened a walk-out.

Gandar is the second South African journalist to be selected as an

IPI World Press Freedom Hero.

In 2000, former City Press editor,

Percy Qoboza, was honoured with the award.


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