South Africa has produced some incredible journalists, some of whom put their lives or safety on the line in order to tell important stories. Some took photos that stunned the world. Others used humor to shed light on realities — considered by some an offense punishable by death. Here are 12 fearless South African journalists who championed free press.
Streek served as the vice chairman of the Cape Town Press Club and sat on the committee for many years. A vocal liberal and advocate of the anti-apartheid National Union of South African Students, Streek had a banning order on him by the South African government. The apartheid era special branch compiled an extensive file on him. In 2001 Streek started working as media manager for the South African Parliament and worked as a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian. Streek was a political journalist for 25 years before dying of cancer at 58.
Patel is a famous South African food activist who reports on food distribution and globalization. Patel has worked for but also protested against major organizations who oversee food distribution. He’s been a consultant for the U.N. but he has also been tear gassed four times during protests. Patel has written several books including, “Food Rebellions! Crisis and Hunger for Justice,” “Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System,” and “The Value of Nothing.” Patel speaks regularly at universities around the world.
Krog was an editor at the now-defunct Afrikaans journal, “Die Suid-Afrikaan”— a position that earned her a spot with the South African Broadcasting Corporation. While at SABC, Krog reported on the radio show “AM Live” covering South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In her youth, Krog scandalized her conservative Afrikaans-speaking community and got famous for writing an anti-apartheid poem, “Gee vir my ‘n land waar swart en wit hand aan hand, vrede en liefde kan bring in my mooi land.”
Truth and Reconciliation was a restorative justice court created after apartheid ended where victims of human rights violations could testify and perpetrators could apologize. Krog went on to write a book, “Country of My Skull,” chronicling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was later turned into a film.
Nakasa was a political journalist in the 1960s during the height of the apartheid era who was banned from South Africa for his anti-apartheid writings. Nakasa got word of his impending ban days before it became effective, and fled the country. He was welcomed by Harvard University where he earned a Nieman journalism fellowship. Nakasa eventually moved to Harlem and fell (some believe jumped) from a building and died. He was 28 years old. Today the South African president gives out a Nat Nakasa Award to journalists who tell important and dangerous stories, according to Africaisacountry.com.
Logan is a South African TV and radio journalist who works for CBS’s “60 Minutes” as a correspondent. Logan has also served as the CBS news chief foreign correspondent and appears on “60 Minutes Sports.” Logan is known for reporting from dangerous areas and war zones, sometimes with devastating consequences. When reporting on the Egyptian Revolution for “60 Minutes,” Logan was attacked and sexually assaulted by a mob.
Goldstuck is a South African commentator on information and communications technology. He is best known for being the first one to research the population of Internet users and the scope of e-commerce in South Africa. He is the editor of “The Big Change,” a business thought-leadership blog. Goldstuck has served as the managing director of Media Africa, editor for PC Review and a correspondent for Billboard Magazine. Goldstuck is also the head of the World Wide Worx research organization that researches matters such as the role of IT in small businesses and technology problems in financial sectors.
Sparks is best known for his role as editor at The Rand Daily Mail when the publication broke the story about the government secretly funding information projects. Sparks published several books about South Africa and its transition fro apartheid including, “Tutu: The Authorized Portrait of Desmond Tutu.”
Sparks founded the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in South Africa and has done correspondence work for The Washington Post and The Observer. He was the first South African journalist to receive the Press Freedom Award from the Media Institute of Southern Africa for his willingness to stick his neck out for a story even though it reached into the deep echelons of the apartheid government.
Zille is best known for exposing the truth behind the death of Steve Biko, leader of the grassroots anti-apartheid movement known as Black Consciousness. Zille was a correspondent for the Rand Daily Mail at the time Biko died in prison. Police reported that Biko had died of a hunger strike but Zille found evidence that the story was a cover up for Biko’s murder. Her article, headlined, “No sign of hunger strike—Biko’s doctors” resulted in death threats for Zille and almost got the Rand Daily Mail banned.
Warder was born in Ficksburg, South Africa. A journalist and fiction writer, she authored 24 books, three of which became required reading in South African schools. Many of her stories take place in newspaper offices.
She spent most of her career in British Colombia, Canada, where she became an advocate for hemochromatosis awareness. This hereditary disorder causes the body to absorb too much iron from food. Boone battled this illness more than half her life and died from it in 2014. She was president of the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society, worked as a lay chaplain at Delta Hospital in Tsawwassen and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Biolron Conference in Vancouver.
Stirton is a photographer and journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, Human Rights Watch, Time Magazine, Newsweek and CNN. Stirton photographs campaigns for the World Wide Fund for Nature and reports for Human Rights Watch. The majority of Stirton’s work focuses on water and HIV/AIDS issues. Stirton became a Young Global Leader through the World Economic Forum in 2008. He shot this photo of two men in the water.
A South African photojournalist, Kevin Carter took the iconic and terrifying photo of a starving child with a vulture in the background. The photo was bought by the New York Times and earned Carter a Pulitzer Prize. Within days the photo had been seen all over the world. Two months after receiving his prize, Carter committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning and left a note that read, “I’m really, really sorry…the pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist.”
Carter was a member of the Bang-Bang Club, a group of four photographers who recorded fighting between ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party supporters in South African townships between 1990 and 1994. It was a violent period during the transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa. A film, “The Bang Bang Club” (2010) was made of the photographers’ experiences.
Snyman began his career as a crime reporter for Beeld magazine and today is the travel editor at Weg! Magazine. Snyman spent 10 years as a journalist at Huisgenoot magazine and wrote the one-man comedy play “Yours Truly, Pottie Potgieter” which became a runner up for the AngloGold Ashanti/Aardklop-Smeltkroes Award for new texts.