New Nation started life in March 1986. In May 1987, Tradition, Family, Property (TFP) advertised its glossy booklet, The 'New Nation' and Liberation Theology. New Nation was banned by the apartheid government for three months at the beginning of March 1988. Following the banning, TFP announced that nowhere in its study was a request made "to the Government for the application of State laws against the paper". In a remarkable contortion of illogic, TFP attempted to absolve itself of complicity in the government's censorship by implying that the South African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) had the power to prevent the banning of New Nation:
We regret that a newspaper owned by Catholic Bishops, should find itself in a situation which according to the country's civil courts, no case existed to prevent the enforcement of press laws suspending the publication (TFP Newsletter, No 30:2).
This statement is typical of TFP's innacurate, mischievious and totally wrong interpretation of the South African 'press laws' at the time New Nation was banned and this statement issued. First, New Nation was not banned under any law applied by the "civil courts". The government suspended the rule of law with the first state of emergency in 1985, and from mid-1987 to February 1990, had ruled by proclamation. One of the reasons for this arbitrary rule which ignored the courts was that the state had rarely won its cases against newspapers and treason trialists, despite the extensive battery of laws it had created since 1948 to deal with 'subversives'.
Second, cases that would have been tenable in a "civil" court of law, were not tenable in terms of the government's various proclamations as the procedures enacted to facilitate bannings of newspapers rested solely on the Minister of Home Affairs's subjective opinion. No court of appeal existed whereby his opinion could be tested, or indeed, the 'opinion' of any state functionary (Government Gazette Vol 276 No 11342 10 June 1988). Third, if TFP were itself to annoy the Minister, it too could be shut down, no matter how watertight its case. As we point out below, TFP was useful to the government at that moment as both had coincident aims vis-à-vis New Nation.
Various TFP bulletins, both South African and foreign, carried extensive self-serving publicity on the 'study', and congratulated their organisation on the "favourable coverage given to the campaign in prestigious Italian journals", and those of other countries. TFP cavalierly dismissed criticisms of its study published in the media worldwide stating that some "of these have predictably denounced the work of the TFP in the characteristic way with recourse to worn-out, persistent and negative cliches" (TFP Newsletter, No 30, 1988:2). This was another tactic used by TFP - the sarcastic denegration of counter-arguments which deflect TFP from addressing the central issues.
The study that follows was commissioned by New Nation in May 1987, soon after publication of the TFP document. At the time we hypothesised that the TFP report, if not published clandestinely in conjunction with the National Party government, would nevertheless be used to legitimate its clampdown on what cabinet ministers at that stage derisively labelled "the so-called alternative media". An intensive study checking the accuracy of quotations taken from the pages of New Nation and reproduced in the document was undertaken, as was a search of communications research methods textbooks to identify the source of TFP's methodology.
Commenting on the banning of New Nation, TFP stated in The Citizen that "At no stage after publication of the New Nation and Liberation Theology did the hierarchy of the church, the Southern African Catholic Bishops conference — heading 4 million Catholics in Southern Africa — react." This statement may have been intended to bring the SACBC into disrepute — that is, the SACBC's silence was thought to indicate that it had no response to the TFP accusations because they were 'true'. This is not so. The shadowy nature of TFP and accusations of its use of violence and fraud to attain its ends elsewhere, including its willing aid to the brutal rule of General Pinochet's regime in Chile, and co-operation with repressive monopoly capital in South America (Lernoux, 1982, pp 293-304; Sandford, 1975, pp 112 ff; Hirsch, 1974 pp 39 ff), called for an in-depth research project to examine how TFP permitted itself to be co-opted in the interests of apartheid in South Africa. During the following 12 months we painstakingly collected information on TFP. Our and the SACBC's silence was rewarded in the TFP's own later admission that it "played a major role in influencing the banning" of New Nation (The Citizen). This admission validated our initial assumptions.
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