World Press Leaders Return to Mandela's SA 20 Years On

Two decades after South Arica's first democratic elections the International Press Institute met in Cape Town for its 63rd annual congress. But with some 200 journalists jailed globally and the widespread use of anti-terror and other laws to silence the media there was little room to celebrate.


  1. The 1990s saw South Africa begin its transition after more than four decades of repressive rule.  
  2. A South Africa on the eve of its first democratic elections was the site of the IPI's 43rd annual Congress, and Nelson Mandela its chosen guest of honor, seen here below with veteran South African editor, Raymond Louw.
  3. On February 14, 1994, Mandela  delivered a historic keynote address just miles away from the Robben Island prison where he had spent 18 of his 27 years in jail. He expressed gratitude to the international press for its contribution in the struggle against apartheid.
  4. Mandela credited the international press with exposing the abuses of apartheid and keeping the global community engaged on the issues in South Africa. 
  5. Under apartheid's authoritarian rule, many journalists risked their lives doing their jobs and exposing the truth of what was happening in their country. 
  6. Others included Daily Dispatch editor Donald Woods (banned and fled the country), editor of The World Percy Qoboza (house arrest and detained without trial) and journalist Joe Thloloe (detained, convicted and banned).
  7. The few publications that dared to challenge the government played a cat and mouse game with the country's draconian laws, constantly facing censorship and banning.
  8. When he delivered his address to the IPI congress in February 1994, Mandela was leader of the African National Congress but not yet president of a democratic South Africa. But he used the occasion to affirm the importance of a free press as a check against government's instinct to grow ever more powerful over its citizens.
  9. Twenty years later, world press leaders returned to meet against the backdrop of Table Mountain for the 63rd annual congress from April 12-15, 2014.
  11. Mandela was gone, but a few notable participants from the 1994 meeting were on hand including Nobel laureate and Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, who welcomed delegates via a video link.  
  12. Bishop Desmond Tutu's video message to the IPI World Congress 2014
  13. And the then-President F.W. De Klerk. Twenty years on, he took part in a panel discussing South Africa and the rest of the continent.