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1978: Newspaper editor flees South Africa
Newspaper editor Donald Woods has arrived in London after fleeing South Africa's apartheid regime.

The former editor of the East London Daily Dispatch newspaper in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province, has spent years opposing the government's policies of racial discrimination.

But, fearing for his life, he fled the country after being placed under house arrest by the National party government and banned from working, travelling, writing or speaking publicly for five years.

The 44-year-old landed at Gatwick airport this morning with his wife, Wendy, and their five children, where he is now due to claim political asylum.

I could no longer function there as a journalist
Donald Woods
Mr Woods is part of a group of progressive journalists in South Africa who have strived to establish a truthful and objective press.

He has succeeded in drawing world attention to the case of his friend and black consciousness leader Steve Biko, who died last year aged 30, from brain injuries inflicted by the security forces during 21 days in police custody.

But Mr Woods, who has been arrested a total of seven times for his anti-apartheid activities, reached the stage where he felt the safety of his family was at risk.

Speaking at a press conference following his arrival at Gatwick airport today, he said: "I could no longer function there as a journalist.

"I was no longer able to oppose the government, as I have been doing for many years, within the limits of the laws which were already highly restrictive."

Mr Woods, who describes himself as a "white liberal", told how he escaped by jumping over his garden fence disguised as a priest, hitch-hiking 300 miles and swimming the flooded Tele River.

He claimed he had been targeted by the government who had kept him a prisoner in his own home, bugged his telephone and made threats to his family.

Most recently his six-year-old daughter was severely burned after putting on a tee-shirt she received in the post, which had been soaked in acid.

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Donald Woods waving to crowds
Donald Woods arrives at Gatwick

Woods and family arrive in the UK



In Context
Donald Woods died on 19 August 2001, aged 67, following a two year battle against cancer.

After fleeing South Africa in 1978 he settled in London with his family. But throughout his exile, he continued to campaign against apartheid and wrote several books, including Biko a biography of his friend Steve Biko.

He first returned to his homeland in August 1990 after 13 years of exile. His last visit was in May 2001 to attend the wedding of Steve Biko's son, Nkosinathi Biko.

Richard Attenborough's acclaimed 1987 film "Cry Freedom", starring Denzel Washington, was based on Donald Wood's struggle against racism in South Africa.

In 1999 Mr Woods was made a CBE in the Queen's New Years Honours list for his human rights activities.

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