Sue Valentine’s postgraduate studies at Rhodes University coincided with the PW Botha State of Emergency, and overlapped with massive political rumblings and shakings in the fight against apartheid of the 1980s. Rhodes University was a hotbed of political activity, with activists and spies for the apartheid security forces all active on campus. Attending Rhodes to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism and Media Studies, Sue was active in the anti-apartheid advice and lobby group the Black Sash, and was a member of the End Conscription Campaign, which was establshed in response to a resolution passed by the Black Sash condemining the occupation of Namibia and the waging of a silent civil war by the SADF within apartheid South Africa. These influences can be clearly seen in Sue’s later career trajectory. She was Media Director for IDASA – Institute for Democracy in South Africa – from 1990 to 1996, providing media coverage of IDASA’s work during the political transition from apartheid to democracy, and witnessing first-hand the birth of South Africa’s democratic constitution and the country’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
In the years since South Africa’s democratic transition, Sue’s work has focused on the ongoing struggles of ordinary South Africans, and includes the founding of Health e-News Service to provide evidence-based coverage of the AIDS epidemic, at a time when AIDS denialism, particularly within the government was rife. Sue’s fight was not just for consistent coverage of the epidemic, but to ensure that treatment was made accessible to the thousands of ordinary South Africans battling HIV/AIDS in the days before retroviral medication, and PReP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
From 2013 to 2016, Sue was Africa Programme Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit advocacy organisation that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. As threats to journalists across the world increase, the work of the CPJ becomes ever more essential with its work to promote press freedom. As Africa Programme Coordinator, Sue was responsible for promoting the safety of journalists across sub-Saharan Africa, including engaging with national governments and institutions.
Sue currently works in Global Programs: Expression at the Open Society Foundations in London, where she is Director of the Media Division, providing grants and other support to strengthen, reinvigorate, and protect independent journalism. The role focuses on addressing the issues inherent in a crowded information ecosystem, where traditional media business models are no longer functional, and distrust and disinformation characterise the relations of media and society.