Academic journal article Journalism History

Communication and Democratic Reform in South Africa

Academic journal article Journalism History

Communication and Democratic Reform in South Africa

Article excerpt

Horwitz, Robert B. Communication and Democratic Reform in South Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 409 pp. $59.95.

On September 15, 1990, freelance photographer Gregory Marinovich took horrific photographs of African National Congress supporters stabbing and setting afire a man who they thought was a Zulu spy. During the next few years, a steady stream of similar photos and news videos fixed in our minds the image of a country in the midst of often-- bloody civil strife.

Yet behind the scenes and largely unreported, a people's revolution truly began after the 1990 declaration from president F.W. De Klerk that the South African government was "unbanning" political organizations such as the African National Congress and the Pan-- Africanist Congress. Nowhere was this more evident than in the painstaking yet productive negotiations over the future of communication policy and ownership of South Africa's telephones, broadcast industry, and newspapers. Those negotiations were surprisingly open to all participants, from existing government leadership within the so-called parastatals to African union representatives, academics, owners, and would-be owners of broadcast and newspaper entities.

In his well-researched book, Communication and Democratic Reform in South Africa, Robert B. Horwitz provides media historians with a sometimes suspenseful and sometimes heartening look at how the nation moved along the perilous course of opening up its communications industry to all of its citizens. Horowitz, a professor of communication at the University of California-San Diego, writes not as a distant researcher looking at the historical record but as a participant observer. As a Fulbright Scholar, he served as the only nonSouth African member of the National Telecommunications Policy Project Task Team. That seminal group, appointed by the Minister of Post, Telecommunications, and Broadcasting, sifted through Green and White paper recommendations to craft legislation that was eventually presented to the country's new Parliament. …

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