19 October 1977

It was known as Black Wednesday. On October 19, 1977, The World and Weekend World were banned. The editor of The World, Percy Qoboza, who became the editor of City Press in 1984, was taken into detention and held for five months under section 10 of the Internal Security Act in Modderbee Prison.

Further, the apartheid regime declared illegal 19 Black Consciousness organisations and detained scores of activists. That day is now commemorated in South Africa as “Black Wednesday” and is also marked as National Press Freedom Day.

Besides banning independent media in an attempt to hide horrendous acts by the regime at the time, authorities acted quickly after coverage of Steve Bantu Biko's murder in September the same year. Biko was one of the leaders of the Black Consciousness Movement, and was arrested in August that year under the Terrorism Act.

This move was done in terms of section 10 of the apartheid government's Internal Security Act, which allowed them to arrest, detain and or ban whomever it felt was a threat to the regime.

The media gag was to stop journalists from trying to expose the regime, and so the day was deemed Black Wednesday.

The day is now marked as an important platform for discussions on media freedom and the extent to which media freedom improved from all those years ago. The right to press freedom and freedom of expression is an important cornerstone of democracy.

Black Wednesday 19th Oct 1977 reminds us of the importance of real independence of the media as a fundamental cornerstone of democracy