British, U.S. Embassies Ask Reconsideration for Journalists With AM-Britain-South Africa
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The U.S. and British embassies appealed to the government Friday to reconsider decisions forcing three foreign correspondents to leave the country next week.
They also expressed concern about growing restrictions against the news media by South Africa’s white-led government.
The U.S. Embassy said it was disturbed at the government’s refusal to renew a visa and work permit for Steve Mufson, 28, an American who writes for Business Week and the Dutch magazine Elseviers.
In London, the Foreign office said the South African government had agreed to review similar visa actions taken against two British television reporters, but added the order, amounting to an expulsion decision, had not been changed.
Including Mufson and the two Britons, eight resident foreign correspondents have been ordered to leave South Africa in the past year.
Mufson said his work permit expired March 3, and the Department of Home Affairs notified him Friday it would not be renewed.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Pryor said in Cape Town:
″The United States is greatly disturbed by the refusal of the South African government to renew the visa of American journalist Steven Mufson, and has appealed the decision at the highest levels, urging the South African government to reconsider Mr. Mufson’s case.
″We will continue to do so. We have not yet been given a reason why the visa renewal was refused. ... It is with growing alarm that we witness the lessening of South Africa’s commitment to″ free press principles.
The British ambassador, Sir Patrick Moberly, urged Home Affairs Minister Stoffel Botha to change his decision requiring BBC-TV correspondent Michael Buerk and Peter Sharp of ITN Television News to leave the country next week, when their work permits expire.
In another development, The Star newspaper in Johannesburg reported two of its black journalists were detained while investigating reports of an outbreak of violence in KwaNdebele, a rural black homeland whose government announced last week it would become an independent state. The territory is surrounded by South Africa.
The newspaper said reporter Jon Qwelane, photographer Herbert Mabuza and their driver, Sam Mathe, were detained Tuesday, but it had been unable to confirm the police action until Friday.
Brig. Hertzog Lerm, Pretoria commissioner of the South African police, said the journalists and driver were detained under emergency regulations. He denied there had been a surge of violence in KwaNdebele since the homeland’s Legislative Assembly announced it would seek independence, reversing a decision last August to abandon the plan after months of fighting that took 100 lives.
Lerm did say 70 political activists in KwaNdebele had been detained in the nine days since the new independence plan was announced, but refused to elaborate.
Media attorneys have said two Natal Province Supreme Court decisions last month overturned censorship and other emergency restrictions on journalists, but the government insists the rules remain in effect during the appeal.
No official reasons were given for the expulsions, but the government contends coverage of anti-apartheid protests, particularly television coverage, helps provoke violence.
The Citizen, a pro-government newspaper, said Friday, ″It is understood that the final decision to act against the two (British) newsmen was taken at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting in Cape Town.″
It said there was so much concern ″in some government quarters″ about continued foreign coverage of disturbances and security force actions that suggestions were made to close ″news bureaus if individual members continue to ignore the emergency press curbs.″
Also on Friday:
- The American Chamber of Commerce said its member companies would continue housing non-white employees in white neighborhoods, despite government warnings. The organization, representing 200 U.S. companies in South Africa, rejected the government’s description of such programs as civil disobedience.
- Defense Force Maj. Andre Pienaar was sentenced by the Pretoria Supreme Court to 16 years in jail after a closed-door trial in which he was convicted of obtaining secret information in order to disclose it to a foreign government. No details of the charges, or the country allegedly involved, were made public.
By law and custom, apartheid establishes a racially segregated society in which the 24 million blacks have no vote in national affairs. The 5 million whites control the economy and maintain separate districts, schools and health services.