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Sanef statement on the death of journalist, educator and editor Gavin Stewart – February 18 2014

Even in the week before his death he was both writing his columns and organising Sanef’s council meeting in Cape Town. He was an energetic member of Sanef from its inception, supporting Sanef ideals and contributing his time to ensure Sanef policy was in line with its journalistic ideals of quality and accuracy.

We acknowledge and support the tribute written by our veteran member Raymond Louw:

Throughout his career Gavin Stewart made an enormous contribution to newspapers and newspaper journalism in the capacities of reporter, journalist, editor, lecturer in journalism and as head of the Journalism Department at Rhodes University. Latterly he had been an independent editorial consultant.

In those roles and as a founder member of the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) he contributed to the maintenance and promotion of high professional standards of newspaper journalism by contributing to discussions and decisions on ethical standards and other issues affecting the conduct of newspapers and journalists and the gathering and publication of information. His sage and well-balanced advice always made an impact on other journalists and members of Sanef.

Professor Stewart began his career by studying typography at the University of the Witwatersrand (1966-7) where he received a Diploma in Typography and Design. A few years later, in 1976-8, he completed his Honours in Communication at the University of South Africa.

His journalistic career included service as a reporter and journalist on a variety of newspapers including the Natal Witness, Golden City Post, The Northern Reporter, Sunday Times and the Rand Daily Mail and later, after a number of years teaching journalism, he was editor of Dispatch Media, publishers of the Daily Dispatch in East London for a decade.

His teaching career encompassed being senior lecturer in Journalism at Natal Technicon (now Durban University of Technology) and from 1980 to 1992 at Rhodes University where he spent several years as head of the Journalism Department.

After leaving the editorship of the Daily Dispatch, Stewart became the Head of the Print Department at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in Johannesburg. Until his death, he was an Independent Editorial Consultant sought out by radio and TV broadcasters for his comments on journalism and national politics.

Throughout his career he enriched the conduct of journalism with his views and contributions to ethical standards at university level, in the newsrooms in which he worked and especially at the Daily Dispatch when he was editor and since then as a consultant.

It can certainly be said of Gavin that he demonstrated impeccable ethics and craft excellence which have had a hugely positive effect on journalistic standards and public life.

During his journalistic career he had to contend with an authoritarian government, censorship and suppression of information where the consequences of falling foul of the government could result in detention without trial, imprisonment after trial or banning and restriction on movement and association.