Veteran journalist Rex Gibson, who was the last editor of the Rand Daily Mail and at the coalface of the apartheid era’s most vicious censorship laws, has been described as a “solid, brave and principled journalist who stood firm under difficult circumstances”.
“He did all he could to save the Rand Daily Mail. He fought a great fight against the establishment. He did what he had to do and, in a sense, it was unfortunate that the newspaper was dying, and mainstream media was in a low place,” his former colleague, Anton Harber – now an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand – said in a South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) statement on Tuesday.
“I respected him. He always asked for more from journalists in the newsroom.”
Gibson died on Monday.
His daughter Kerry confirmed his death on Facebook, saying Gibson died peacefully while his children and partner, Pat, were by his side.
“What a grand life he lived,” she wrote in her post.
According to Sanef, Gibson moved to Hermanus after retiring from journalism in 1992 and published a memoir which gave his perspective of the Rand Daily Mail, spanning the late 1950s to the closure of the newspaper in 1985.
The award-winning editor – who was also the founder editor of Mining News, editor of the Sunday Express and deputy editor of The Star – remained “one of the few editors to face charges under the infamous Official Secrets Act, and also defended himself and his paper against the much rarer charge of criminal defamation”, according to a Financial Mail report in 2010.
– Compiled by Tammy Petersen