Censorship and the suppression of ideas are the first resorts of tyrants. Assassination of critics is just another step on that road to tyranny. We have to guard jealously against the erosion of our hard-won freedoms.


Playwright and cultural activist Mike van Graan at the World Press Freedom Day event hosted by Daily Maverick and The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, 3 May 2019. Photo: Leila Dougan/Daily Maverick


Just over three decades ago, during a state of emergency in this city, “Arts Festival 86: Towards a People’s Culture”, was organised. Four days before its opening, it was banned, deemed to be a national security threat.

In Claremont, a theatre group was arrested and charged with constituting an illegal gathering for staging street theatre that protested the migrant labour system.

Piekniek by Dingaan, a cabaret performed by the mainly white Afrikaner Capab Drama Company, mocked the restrictions placed on the media by the National Party regime. The cabaret was banned from being performed at the Nico Malan – the former Artscape – not by the Censorship Board, but by the chairperson of the Capab board, a government appointee.

We assert democracy by practising it. By exercising freedom of expression then, creatives struggled for freedom of expression, with the right to freedom of artistic creativity now enshrined in our Constitution.

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