News and Notes

Issue Date April 1994
Volume 5
Issue 2
Page Numbers 159-60
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project MUSE
external View Citation

International Press Institute Meets in South Africa

The role of a free press in building and defending democracy feature d prominently in presentations to the 43rd General Assembly of the International Press Institute (IPI), held February 13-16 in Cape Town, South Africa. The most heavily attended Assembly in IPI’s history, with 475 delegates from more than 40 countries, also provided an important window onto the stresses and opportunities associated with South Africa’s democratic transition.

Delegates heard from ANC President Nelson Mandela, State President F.W. De Klerk, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and numerous other South African politicians and journalists. (See pp. 157-58 above for excerpts.) A panel of leading journalists discussed the difficulties of coping with intimidation and violence in reporting on the country’s turbulent politics, particularly as the campaign intensifies for the country’s first-ever nonracial elections on April 26-28. Journalists will be “on trial” during this period as much as the election process itself, they agreed. Joe Thloloe, managing editor of The Sowetan, emphasized that the mass media will “have to win back our credibility in the same way that the police, army, civil service, and others have to win back theirs” in the postapartheid order.

The meeting featured extensive reports on the political troubles facing the press in Africa and around the world. Plus Ndjawe, director of Le Messager in Cameroon, reported on the “catastrophic” state of press freedom in many Francophone African countries, where constitutional freedoms are “generally a smokescreen.'” Algerian journalist Ghania Khelefi, chief editor of Liberté, said eight of his colleagues had been assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists during 1993, and that most Algerian journalists had been forced to leave their homes after death threats. In Angola, some 49 journalists have [End Page 159] died or disappeared since the resumption of civil war in 1992, and serious problems of political intimidation and harassment of the press (including attacks on jounalists and seizures of publications) were noted in Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana.

The conference adopted a resolution on press freedom, signed by leaders of 11 national and international press organizations and endorsed by UNESCO, calling on all political parties in South Africa to respect and defend freedom of the press. The IPI also instituted steps to monitor press freedom in South Africa during the election campaign and its aftermath. The symbolism of IPI’s meeting in South Africa at this time was also widely acknowledged. Former editor of the East London Daily Dispatch Donald Woods (who had fled the apartheid state to evade arrest) called it “an endorsement that change is irreversible in South Africa.”

NED Launches New International Forum

In January 1994, the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) voted to establish the International Forum for Democratic Studies, a new initiative intended to expand NED’s efforts in the realm of ideas and information and to improve its ability to coordinate its activities with other organizations engaged in promoting democracy.

The International Forum, which will seek to build upon the foundations laid by the Journal of Democracy, will be directed by Journal coeditors Marc F. Plattner and Larry Diamond. It will include a library and eventually an electronic information network on democracy, as well as a regular program of conferences, seminars, and workshops on key democratic issues. The Journal itself will be expanded to an average length of 192 pages, making it possible to include a greater number of articles and book reviews in each issue.

The first major public event of the International Forum will be a conference on “Economic Reform and Democracy,” to be held at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., on May 5-6. Among those presenting papers will be Leszek Balcerowicz (former Polish finance minister), Moises Naim (former Venezuelan minister of trade), Adebayo Adedeji (former director of the Economic Commission for Africa), and leading scholars such as Anders Aslund, Barbara Geddes, Stephan Haggard, Robert Kaufman, Abraham Lowenthal, José María Maravall, Joan Nelson, and Minxin Pei. Revised versions of the papers will be published in a special issue of the Journal in October 1994 and subsequently as a book.

The conference will be supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, and NED intends to raise additional private funds to sustain the International Forum. Further information about the activities of the International Forum will be provided in future issues of the Journal. [End Page 160]


Copyright © 1994 National Endowment for Democracy and the Johns Hopkins University Press