SA news veteran Ed Linington dies

2017-08-13 18:05
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Veteran editor and journalist Ed Linington has died after a long career in journalism.

He was the editor of the SA Press Association (Sapa), and the South Africa's Press Ombudsman for 10 years.

''He died on Friday,'' said Mark Van der Velden, the last editor of Sapa.

Linington was 88 and died after a short illness.

A statement issued on behalf of Linington's family by Van der Velden described him as a journalist who clashed on a number of occasions with politicians and government authorities who did not like his insistence on neutral terminology in the agency's news reports during the apartheid era.

''One memorable incident was when the National Party government of P W Botha put considerable pressure on Sapa's board to force Linington to instruct his journalists to refer to African National Congress' uMkhonto we Sizwe raiders as "terrorists,'' said Van der Velden.

''Linington, known for, besides his formidable intellect, a 'hardegat' attitude to authority, stood firm and the neutral terms of 'insurgent' or 'guerrilla' were retained in Sapa news reports.''

Another incident, recalled by Van der Velden, was when Linington found a loophole to defy the apartheid government's media secrecy clamp-down on South African troops' invasion of Angola in 1975.

"The whole world knew, but not South Africans, because the newspapers were forbidden to carry any of that information,'' said Van der Velden.

''Ed had a loophole in that Sapa was not a publisher, but a wholesale distributor of content. He sent out all the news stories we could get on the Angola invasion with a simple ‘consult your lawyer if in doubt’ note. The stories weren’t printed, but, boy, were they absorbed. The government was livid."

In a CV Linington prepared in June for a talk he was going to deliver, he noted that he had reported in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and also covered the last four months of the treason trial which saw many of South Africa's political leaders banished to long prison terms for their anti-apartheid activities.

Linington worked at Sapa's parliamentary office from January 1962 and was almost immediately sent to head its London bureau the same year.

He took over as editor of Sapa in 1972 and had the news agency's systems updated for faster news delivery.

He took part in press deputations to protest to the nationalist government about its increasingly repressive laws on publication and helped draft a new constitution of the SA Press Council in 1980. 

After retiring from Sapa in 1992, he joined the Press Council as a conciliator and five years later the post was converted to Office of the Press Ombudsman and Appeal Panel. He was appointed the first Ombudsman and stayed in the position for 10 years.

Before his second retirement in 2007, he proposed a detailed expansion and improvement of the body which would enforce the Press Code of Ethics in the future under the name of the SA Press Council and Ombudsman, which came to fruition and exists today.

He served as an occasional member of the judicial panel of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, and served on the selection committee for the annual Taco-Kuiper Awards for Investigative Journalism.

He leaves his wife Vivien and seven children.

Linington's funeral will be held at St Michael’s Anglican church in Mount Street, Bryanston at 14:00 on Friday, August 18.


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