JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The government rejected a West German reporter's appeal Wednesday, clearing the way for the fourth expulsion of a foreign journalist since a nationwide state of emergency was imposed June 12.

The Foreign Correspondents' Association protested after the state Bureau for Information announced that Heinrich Buettgen, 55, must leave the country by midnight Thursday, the deadline set in the order issued Monday.

Buettgen represents the ARD television network and has spent four years in South Africa.

In a letter to Deputy Information Minister Louis Nel, the association said the expulsions of Buettgen and the others appeared to negate the minister's assurances that the government did not seek confrontation with foreign media.

Nel, who supervises emergency curbs on journalists, replied in a statement: ''The South African government does not seek confrontation ... and will have no objection to journalists reporting the realities of South Africa - warts and all.

''Most foreign journalists have consistently misrepresented South Africa abroad by turning a blind eye to constructive developments.''

The correspondents' association said the expulsions of demonstrate ''the government's fondness for blaming the messenger for the message.''

''The Foreign Correspondents' Association regards these expulsions as sinister in the extreme,'' it said in its letter to Nel. ''Seemingly some kind of Star Chamber is arriving at such decisions behind the scenes.''

Journalists expelled earlier were CBS News cameraman Wim de Vos, Newsweek magazine correspondent Richard Manning and Dan Sagir, an Israeli who worked for the newspaper Haaretz and Israel army radio.