The Nieman Foundation’s Louis M. Lyons Award for conscience and integrity in journalism was awarded March 18, 1982, to Joseph Thloloe, a 40-year-old black South African banned from working as a journalist by the South African government.
At the time of his banning in January 1981, Thloloe’s career as a labor reporter spanned 18 years. He has worked for The World, a Johannesburg newspaper banned in 1977; for The Post, also in Johannesburg, which was closed under threat of banning in 1980; and most recently for The Sowetan, which replaced The Post. The South African government has never said why Thloloe was banned.
In 1976, South African Security Police detained Thloloe in prison for six months. From 1977 to 1978, he was again incarcerated and held in solitary confinement for 22 months. No reason was given for either detainment.
Thloloe was a founder and first president of the Union of Black Journalists, an organization banned in 1977. Ameen Akhalwaya, political reporter for The Rand Daily Mail and a Nieman Fellow in the Class of 1982, and Thloloe are both executive members of the Media Workers Association.
Accepting the award for Thloloe, Akhalwaya said, “Joe Thloloe is a symbol of courageous and honest journalists who have refused to compromise their ideals and principles in the face of repressive governments in many parts of the world. In particular, he is the symbol of conscience and integrity in a country such as South Africa where the government has acted ruthlessly and systematically against black media workers.”
Unable to practice journalism, Thloloe is now studying for his B.A. Under terms of his banning, he is barred from attending university classes, so his studies are done through the mail.
Thloloe was the first foreign national to receive the Lyons Award. He was selected for the honor by the eleven American and five foreign Nieman Fellows.