How new censorship will work

South Africa's latest press curbs are the first that envisage the possibility of pre-publication censorship. In contrast to previous curbs, they also set up machinery for ruling on what officials acknowledge is the ``subjective'' question of what constitutes censorable material.

As of this week, an unidentified council of ``experts'' will undertake a ``scientific evaluation'' of newspaper copy. Any material deemed to be ``promoting or fanning'' any of a wide range of antigovernment activities will be passed to the home affairs minister. The minister would issue a first warning to the editor involved and await a written reply. If unsatisfied with the reply, he would issue a second warning.

If the newspaper continues publishing similar material, the minister could halt its publication for up to three months, or appoint an in-house censor.

Although nominally applicable to all publications, the curbs are seen as aimed at the so-called alternative press, chiefly at some half-dozen new newspapers devoted largely to covering black political and social groups.

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