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We mourn the loss of a press freedom giant, Raymond Louw

Raymond Louw has passed away, within one day of his amazing wife Jean. Some of our trustees on hearing the news said, “Apart from having an illustrious career as an editor I think he was a real lion who throughout his life was not afraid to take unpopular issues on.  An activist to his last breath.” Laura Pollecut, while Justine Limpitlaw added, “I want to be like Raymond when I’m in my 90’s” I’m not sure how, because of course we know we all have to leave this earth at some point, but somehow we just expected Ray to just keep going.  Yes, he was a bit old and frail but he was there, whenever you needed a voice of sanity, of principle and ardent, ardent commitment to press freedom. Others will have a far more comprehensive knowledge of his role and fight against the nationalists. I have known Raymond for over 25 years and in that time while I may have disagreed with some of his points he was always principled, committed to taking our democracy forward, and to highlighting the importance of media freedom. Raymond was reliable and firm with a great sense of humour. He was a wordsmith and in the way of brilliant journalists, he was able to distill core issues into simple core principles. A giant in the sector his ongoing commitment was astonishing.

Whenever young members of MMA joined and met Ray they would wonder how old he was and when he would retire, we would reply that he was simply ageless, he had been about that old since I had known him and he would carry on. More recently, we saw less of him at our SOS Support Broadcasting Coalition meetings, but he would always send a formal apology and follow up on issues, and take time to read minutes and engage.  Over the last few years, we took such pride that he would attend and support our events as Media Monitoring Africa. In later years he would bring Jean, who always somehow had a sparkle in her eyes, she seemed to enjoy all the events and taking in all the things going on around and I can imagine them chatting long hours about everything.

One of my most memorable recent exchanges with him was at MMA’s 25th birthday celebration.  He came along with Jean. They sat and chatted, and as usual had a few glasses of wine.  Raymond had to leave before the formal speech but came up and told me, ‘the work MMA does is just incredible and so important, you must keep going and keep fighting for press freedom and our democracy’.  Then he asked me to please send him my speech, and he was insistent that it wasn’t just because he was leaving but because he really wanted to know and to celebrate with us. We mourn the loss of a press freedom giant, a principled voice and supporter.  We send all strength to Ray and Jeans family and friends and especially Fiona and Derek. As sad as this day is we will use it to ensure we double our commitment and continue fighting for press freedom, and hopefully for Ray and Jean it means they can actually rest, and we imagine them sitting back with a glass of wine.

On behalf of the Trustees, and entire team of Media Monitoring Africa we salute you Ray and Jean.

(Photo credit: PenSouthAfrica)