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Nadine Gordimer Solidifies Stand Against the Protection of State Information Bill

Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer has penned yet another treatise on the loathed Protection of State Information Bill, this time for The New York Review of Books. The article, entitled “South Africa: The New Threat to Freedom”, follows Gordimer’s Black Tuesday call for the bill to be rejected in its entirety.

While the NYRB article adds little to her previous discourse on the importance of sustained press freedom, it has propelled the 88-year-old into our headlines once again. Gordimer’s thesis is simple, though one we’ve heard before: the bill “will return South Africa to apartheid-era limits on free speech”.

The regime of racism in South Africa was maintained not only by brutality—guns, violence, restrictive laws. It was upheld by elaborately extensive silencing of freedom of expression. The Suppression of Communism Act of 1950 had definitions of communism that were vastly inclusive. What was forbidden included advocacy of industrial, political, economic, and social change.

In 1982 an updated version of the Suppression of Communism Act, the Internal Security Act, was passed, which banned the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress along with the South African Communist Party. It retained almost all of the previous definitions of what was forbidden.

The Publications and Entertainments Act of the apartheid regime banned thousands of newspapers and books in South Africa from 1950 to 1990. The works of world-famous writers, including D.H. Lawrence, Richard Wright, Henry Miller, and Vladimir Nabokov, were prohibited along with the novels and nonfiction works of South African writers, including Todd Matshikiza, Bloke Modisane, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Lewis Nkosi, André Brink, Can Themba, and three of my own novels. Among the taboo subjects of everyday life was sexual relations between white and black. In the 1970s the films Jesus Christ Superstar, A Clockwork Orange, and The Canterbury Tales were prohibited.

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