Raymond Louw, ‘SA’s great press freedom champion’, dies at 93

Louw was instrumental in setting up and leading the Media Defence Trust under apartheid, to defend journalists against encroaching state censorship and detention

05 June 2019 - 13:43 Staff Writer
Raymond Louw. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Raymond Louw. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Raymond Louw‚ a former editor of the Rand Daily Mail‚ chair of the SA chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa and vice-president of Pen SA‚ has died at the age of 93.

His death in hospital after undergoing surgery comes 24 hours after the death of his‚ wife Jean‚ who did not recover after a fall.

Louw was brave in the face of apartheid repression and campaigned for freedom of the press throughout his career.

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He was instrumental in establishing‚ and went on to lead‚ the Media Defence Trust under apartheid, to defend journalists against then encroaching state censorship and detention.

Most recently‚ he was outspoken about politicians who seek to intimidate journalists and a host of laws in democratic SA that affect media freedom.

Tributes to the respected journalist are being shared by those who worked with him.

The World Editors' Forum's Cherilyn Ireton‏ shared her sadness‚ describing Louw as "SA's great press freedom champion".

"His was a lifelong service and fight for the freedoms journalists now enjoy‚" Ireton tweeted.

"Raymond Louw. An exemplary journalist‚ a fighter for freedom‚ a fabulous editor and an activist from his twenties to his nineties. What a life! And what a love with Jean. RIP Ray Louw and Jean. We love you and learnt so much‚" said Ferial Haffajee.

Adriaan Basson‏ tweeted: "A giant has fallen. RIP oom Raymond Louw‚ 24 hours after his wife‚ Jean. Privileged that I could have learnt from someone who dedicated his life to press freedom. We shall continue to carry the torch."

John Matisonn‎ posted on Facebook: "Raymond and Jean Louw. It is with great sadness that I learnt this morning that Ray and Jean died within 24 hours of each other. I first met him on a vac job in 1971 when he was already editor of the Rand Daily Mail‚ and later worked for him and became a close friend. My admiration for him is undimmed. He embodied courageous and principled journalism‚ an editor and fighter against injustice at a time when we most needed one."

They leave their son Derek Louw and daughter Fiona Ramsay.

A biography on SouthAfrica.co.za states that Louw joined the Rand Daily Mail in 1946‚ worked for various British newspapers from 1951 to 1956‚ before returning to the RDM in 1957.

In 1975 he was the chair of the SA Morning Newspaper Group‚ before becoming the GM of SA Associated Newspapers (Tiso Blackstar's predecessor) in 1977. In 1989, Louw reported on the proceedings of the Five Freedoms Forum’s visit to Lusaka‚ Zambia‚ to meet ANC members.

He also served as chair of the Campaign for Open Media and council member of the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef)‚ and was Africa Consultant for the US-based World Press Freedom Committee.

Louw personally founded and directed a media business training foundation‚ under which black aspirant business journalists were trained at Wits Business School.