CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA -- Months after clearing the antiapartheid movie "Cry Freedom" for screening, the South African government has announced that it plans to take a further look at the film before deciding whether it can be shown in this country.

"Cry Freedom," which tells the story of the late black activist Steve Biko, was approved without restrictions by government censors in November.

But Stoffel Botha, the ruling National Party's minister of home affairs, says he will view the film soon to determine whether he should ask the Publications Appeals Board to reconsider the initial approval his department gave the movie.

Other government departments, among them the Justice Ministry and the police, are trying to determine whether the film violates South Africa's security laws or whether its screening should be prohibited under the nation's 20-month-old state of emergency.

"Cry Freedom," directed by Richard Attenborough, is scheduled to open at 30 cinemas around the country early in April, after a major advertising campaign that the American distributors have said is intended to challenge the consciences of white South Africans.

Peter Dignan, managing director of UIP-Warner, local distributor of the film, says that despite the additional government reviews, he expects the movie to be shown as planned.

"We believe it was a very enlightened decision by the {lower-level} Publications Control Board to permit its screening," Dignan says. "We at UIP are proud to be involved with the film and are confident of its success."

But the government appears to be taking an even tougher approach toward its critics on the left than it was at the time "Cry Freedom" was approved.

Using the government's vast powers under the state of emergency, Botha has moved to suspend one newspaper from publishing and warned five other papers and magazines that similar actions might be taken against them. He has ordered an investigation into the making of a CBS documentary, "Children of Apartheid," that could lead to the expulsion of CBS personnel from the country.

And in Parliament last week, he attacked several major English-language opposition newspapers for what he called a campaign of distortion.

"I can't say what my colleagues will do about this film," Botha said, "but I will view it and decide whether to refer it to the Publications Appeals Board."

Klaus von Lieres, attorney general for the Witwatersrand region, recently warned newspapers in Johannesburg and Pretoria that they could be prosecuted for publishing advertisements for the movie that quoted Donald Woods, a white newspaper editor whose friendship for Biko turned him into a passionate opponent of apartheid.

Woods, who lives in exile in London and who helped write the screenplay, is a banned person under the Internal Security Act and may not be quoted inside South Africa without government permission.

Von Lieres said provisions of the Internal Security Act applied to the movie, despite its approval by the Publications Control Board.

However, Dignan said that the government had not contacted him about the advertisements and that he was not aware of any complaint about the proposed screening.

Some of Biko's writings also are banned in South Africa, raising further legal questions since the screenplay drew upon them. Biko, founder of the black consciousness movement, died in 1977 of injuries suffered while in police custody.