The CIA has played a role in controlling South African media from the days of apartheid to the present.
In recent weeks, South African public discourse has been focused on concerns about alleged Chinese influence in the country’s media landscape. However, these conversations have tended to overlook the already existing spheres of influence within South African media. Politically motivated sponsorship of prominent South African media outlets by the United States dates back decades to the apartheid era. According to internal U.S. government documents, the aim of these operations was “to counter the strong Marxist campaigns” in the country. This funding was circulated by the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization created by the Reagan administration in order to re-brand U.S. covert operations that were previously carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency. Today, as Washington becomes fixated on combating Beijing’s influence around the world, the National Endowment for Democracy and its private sector partners continue to penetrate large swathes of the South African media ecosystem. This web of influence has caught major publications, including Mail & Guardian newspaper and amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism.Manufacturing Consent: How the United States Has Penetrated South African Media