Emergency hits hard at news media

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The last glimpse the students caught of their professor was of him being driven away in a car with three men. He is now in detention under South Africa's state of emergency. The man's name cannot be printed. Nor can the subject he teaches, nor where he does so. This would constitute ``disclosure of the name or identity'' of the detainee -- and violate the emergency's news media curbs, the most stringent yet introduced during South Africa's 21 months of political violence.

The emergency law revives last year's ban on ``any photograph, drawing, or other representation, or any sound recording'' of any aspect of political unrest, and of any police or Army activity. It adds a ban on publishing ``subversive'' statements. Read literally, the definitions of subversion focus on incitement of public hostility, unrest, disinvestment calls, or endangering ``the termination of the state of emergency.'' But government officials have said the onus of proof will be on the offending reporter.

Information Ministry official, David Steward, warned the media Friday the restrictions would be enforced more energetically than last year.

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The 15-page emergency proclamation details virtually unlimited powers for police and soldiers. These include detention without trial; search and seizure without warrant; the sealing off of areas to journalists and all other nonresidents. Ultimate authority in most cases rests with the Minister of Law and Order. He, the President, other officials, police, and soldiers, are immunized from any court challenge to ``good faith'' action under emergency regulations. If questions are raised about an individual's good faith, ``it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that such act was advised, commanded, ordered, directed or performed by him in good faith.''

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