South and books. These international media groups persuaded

South Africa’s transition from a heavily separated state
plagued by apartheid to a racially mixed democracy was ambitiously achieved by
antiapartheid activists who fought to bring this about from a multitude of
different angles. The usage of words and its transportation to audiences,
media, was very crucial in this process. Antiapartheid activists won the war
against apartheid greatly due to pressure given by international media through
means of television, press, music, and books. These international media groups
persuaded world leaders to take actions that en masse, in addition to internal
conflict, instigated change in South Africa.

Apartheid in South Africa generally started in 1948 and ended
in 1991, although many of the effects of apartheid are still present even to
this day including some old racism and segregation and mistreatment of people
of color.1 In the
scope of this investigation, international media is referred to as any means of
media whose direct intended audience is people of another nation/region other
than that of South Africa.

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Steve Biko

domestically, the apartheid South African government used deadly violence and
oppressive laws; internationally, it was armed with money used for persuasion
in an attempt to try to rescue its tarnished image. This international campaign
was known as the Muldergate scandal designated roughly $74 million to buy international
media influence, and $31 million to launch a pro-apartheid publication called the
These attempts failed and international journalists were unpersuaded, and along
with the growing global antiapartheid movement, they exposed it. A media frenzy
was under way, with two key people in its view: Steve Biko, whose death in
custody sparked an avalanche of bad press for the South African government, and
Nelson Mandela, who remained imprisoned. While international media had already scrutinized
the South African government for its abuses, the death of Steve Biko created an
uproar of disdain towards the apartheid South African government. International
media greatly escalated calls for the resignation of President Paul Kruger with
a Washington Post editorial openly having asked: “Is there an
explanation other than a calculated official policy to physically destroy
substantial segments of the country’s black leadership, and in so doing to try
to intimidate others who would offer South Africa’s black majority alternatives
to tranquil acceptance of apartheid?”3 and CBS News having said Biko
suffered “multiple brain and body injuries,”.4 Increasingly under an
international spotlight, South Africa’s inaction generated more criticism.
“The still unexplained death … has more than ever put the South African
system … with its provisions for unlimited detention without trial or charges
… its apparent use of brutal assault and torture – on international
trial,” wrote The Washington Post.5 It detailed South Africa’s
torture techniques:

assault … long periods of standing, two days and more without sleep, food, or
even permission to go to the bathroom. … Electric shock treatment applied to
various parts of the body, the tying of bricks to men’s genitals … throwing
the detainee high in the air and allowing him to land on the cement

Due to this spread in international
media reporting on Biko and apartheid, Biko became the subject of books, plays,
documentaries, songs, and paintings. Citing Biko’s death, the US House of
Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution that strongly denounced
South Africa’s “repressive measures” and called on President Carter
to “take effective measures” against the South African government.7 The US threatened to
initiate economic sanctions unless South Africa made “significant progress
toward the elimination of apartheid.”8 This is about the time
when pressure built up by the negative coverage of the international media on
South Africa forces nations all over the world to make the choice of acting out
against apartheid through means such as sanctions or remaining or taking weak
measures – supporting the system of apartheid.


Post Rivonia Trial & Nelson

            Potentially the greatest instance of international
media coverage in South Africa’s history is during the time of the Rivonia
Trial. The international community viewed this event as extremely controversial
and which expressed apartheid as a genuinely unfair system that was distinctly
discriminatory and racist.

What began as an ANC petition in time grew into a huge explosion
of media attention that grew in magnitude until the day Mandela was finally
released. Although being imprisoned in South Africa for 26 years, Mandela
became an international legend. His letters smuggled from prison made
international news, as he called on “democrats of all races” to oust
apartheid and its leaders. “Unite! Mobilize! Fight on! Between the anvil
of united mass action and the hammer of the armed struggle, we shall crush
apartheid and white minority racist rule. … The whole world is on our
side.”9 Mandela was right, and
this prompted political and religious leaders across the globe to call for his
release. The United Nations created the Special Commission Against Apartheid;
US congresspersons formally requested to see Mandela; Britons voted for Mandela
to succeed Queen Elizabeth as the chancellor of London University.10
Humanitarian organizations and universities bestowed awards and honorary
degrees to the imprisoned leader, while cities such as Rome offered him
citizenship.11 Each declaration bore
another headline, building the movement and Mandela’s global profile. Major
international newsmagazines featured Mandela’s story and his accomplishments,
including his organizing an education program for prisoners. In 1978, for the
first time on US national television, a broadcaster referred to the ANC not as
a “terrorist” group but as a “liberation organization.”12 During
the CBS-aired documentary Battle of South Africa, Bill Moyers explained an
intense struggle for the soul of the country that produced most of the Western
world’s gold, diamonds, and metals.13 Other
international media increasingly changed course, calling the ANC
“liberation forces,” not “terrorists.” National and
international institutions’ punitive actions were reciprocated in the way that
their actions triggered coverage that inspired new ones. Apartheid is a
“crime against humanity,” and the struggle to eradicate it is
“legitimate,” declared the United Nations.14 The
organization embargoed arms sales to South Africa and reviewed existing
contracts “with a view to terminating them.”15 Officials
raided and arrested journalists, including Allister Sparks, Suzanne Sparks, and
Bernard Simon for interviewing a banned person. Suzanne Sparks was charged with
“defeating the ends of justice.” It expelled foreign reporters,
including a 24-year-old correspondent for the Nation magazine, and prohibited
the sale of publications, including Newsweek, because they mentioned banned
persons such as Mandela. But each oppressive act wound up, again, ironically, in
the news.

Internationally, Mandela was legend. His story was recounted
in movies, books, and songs, reaching an ever-growing international audience.
Mandela had “imprisoned his white keepers,” asserted the Washington
Post’s Howard Simons, for the government feared that his death could spawn a
“rampage” and drive the state into even worse peril.16 South
African Prime Minister Botha attempted to reach a compromise to release Mandela
and eliminate some apartheid rules but keep segregation and discrimination.17 This
led to the creation of the United Democratic Front (UDF), which devised a
countrywide opposition strategy and had the message of not allowing Botha to
rob them of equality when it can be seen through the rear view mirror.18 The
UDF’s massive campaign for equality resulted in the largest mass protest in 25
years.19 Botha tried
to crush the uprising with by instating countrywide states of emergency,
curfews, and tighter restrictions, while agents assassinated movement leaders. In
addition, for South Africa’s “national interest,” his regime demanded
the media’s full support; he barred international journalists from covering
uprisings or strikes, and forbade support for “activities of subversive or
revolutionary elements.” Under regular attack and facing charges of
inciting revolution, several media shuttered operations. Botha’s successor,
F.W. de Klerk secretly, de Klerk called for Mandela. Agents retrieved the ANC
leader from his confines and smuggled him through the presidential office basement
garage for their first meeting. On February 2, 1990, the international media
arrived in South Africa, ready for Mandela’s release. “Walk through the
open door and take your place at the negotiating table,” de Klerk said,
unbanning the ANC and some thirty other political organizations, including the
Communist Party, in a single swipe. It is time for “a totally new and just
constitutional dispensation in which every inhabitant will enjoy equal rights,
treatment, and opportunity,” he declared. South Africa was ready to
“set aside its conflicts and ideological differences and draw up a joint
program of reconstruction.” In one afternoon, de Klerk unconditionally
lifted long-established bans, suspended the death penalty, lifted the state of
emergency, freed the media and trade unions, released political prisoners, and
relaxed exile laws. The country would now engage in “a new democratic
constitution, universal franchise, equality before an independent judiciary,
the protection of minorities as well as of individual rights, freedom of
religion . . . and dynamic programs directed at better education, health
services, housing, and social conditions for all.” Nine days later,
through the window of international media, the world watched the unconditional
release of Nelson Mandela.



In South Africa sport has always been a crucially large part
of life. The segregation of teams and racism present in football during the
time of apartheid was largely protested through sports television and
international media. The passing of apartheid sports policy initiated in 1956,
truly emphasized the government’s opposition to inter-racialism.20 This
was circulated worldwide and forced the hand of the Federation Internationale
de Football Association to ban South Africa which thrust South Africa into the
international spotlight and embarrassed them for segregating and enforcing
apartheid beliefs on a sport of such great world interest.21 This
led to many colored South Africans to utilize media in order to call upon the
racism present in sports in South Africa and antiapartheid proponents to exploit
sport (especially football) to weaken the white national morale. The boycotting
of games by international teams had a profound effect on the white population,
perhaps even more so than the trade embargoes enforced by the United States
(under Reagan) and other world nations did.22 After
the re-acceptance of South Africa’s sports teams by the international
community, sport played a major role in unifying the country’s diverse ethnic
groups and progressively leading to an end in apartheid.



            Through great lengths of reporting by
international media groups, apartheid in South Africa was directly ended. This
is seen by the huge steps that nations took to push for the end of apartheid in
South Africa after international media constantly broadcasted the horrible
segregation and unfairness present during the times of apartheid. Especially
seen by the involvement of the United Nations and United States to strain South
Africa at the time to make a decent effort towards the abolishing of the ideals
of apartheid. Overall the international media effectively helped end apartheid
in South Africa through direct association in revealing the true events that
occurred in order to prompt worldwide governments and organizations to take a
stand against apartheid.

1 Krabill, Ron. Starring Mandela and Cosby: Media and the End(s) of Apartheid.
University of Chicago Press, 2010.

2 Rees, M and Day, C. Muldergate: The story of the info scandal.
Macmillan: Johannesburg, 1980.

3 Kerney, J. Reagan. “A Death
in South Africa.” The Washington Post. September 15, 1977. (accessed December 2, 2017).

4 McHelheny, Victor K. “Arizona
Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on September 19, 1977 · Page 1.” September 19, 1977. (accessed December 2, 2017).

5 Kerney, J. Reagan. “A Death
in South Africa.” The Washington Post. September 15, 1977. (accessed December 2, 2017).

6 Ibid.

7 History, Art &
Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Historian. “Legislative
Interests.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 2008. (accessed
December 2, 2017)

8 Ibid.

9 Krabill, Ron. Starring Mandela and Cosby: Media and the End(s) of Apartheid.
University of Chicago Press, 2010.

10 Sanders, James. A Struggle for Representation: The
International Media Treatment of South Africa, 1972-1979. University of
London, 1997.

11 Ibid.

SOUTH AFRICA, 1976-1988. University of Texas Press, 1989.

13 Davis, Stephen M. Apartheid’s Rebels: Inside South Africa’s
Hidden War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.

14 Sanders, James. A Struggle for Representation: The
International Media Treatment of South Africa, 1972-1979. University of
London, 1997.

15 Ibid.

16 McCoy, Christopher J. “America’s
Role in the End of South African Apartheid.” October 21, 2011. (accessed December 2, 2017)

17 Neocosmos, Michael. From People’s Politics to State Politics:
Aspects of National Liberation in South Africa, 1984-1994. 1996.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Alegi, Peter. Laduma! Soccer, Politics and Society in South Africa. University of
KwaZula-Natal Press, 2004. p. 59.

21 Nixon, Rob. Apartheid on the Run: The South African Sports Boycott. Indiana
University Press, 1992. p. 75-77.

22 Ibid.