There is no proof of hostility towards the ruling party in media coverage of President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. In fact, the media — and not the ANC — was on the receiving end of hostilities. This is according to research recently released by the Media Policy and Democracy Project. TheMediaOnline reports.
In the analysis by the Media Policy and Democracy Project on Nkandla coverage in two prominent weeklies, City Press and Mail & Guardian, researchers posed several questions, such as:
* Are the news media hostile to the ANC?
* Are they biased towards other sectional interests?
* Do they attack the dignity of ANC politicians?
* Do they operate to the detriment of the public interest?
* Is responsible and ethical reporting treated as less important than the
protection and promotion of media freedom?
* Whose voices do they include and how are they positioned?
The study covered reports from September 2012 to September 2013, and makes specific reference to 84 of the 300 news articles and editorials sampled online.
It concluded: “The analysis of the editorials in particular, but also the reporting in general, shows that the investigation takes a position of moral indignation both at the expenditure on the President’s Nkandla homestead and at the cavalier way that information was obscured.
This however cannot be conflated with hostility to the ANC per se. “Some editorials even specifically recognised ANC leaders “concerned with the public” and went to pains to recognise the heroes of the struggle against apartheid, said the report, titled ‘Nkandlagate: A critical textual analysis of the press coverage’.
The report criticised the way in which the media was dealt with, and refers to a reluctance by ANC officials to provide information to the media.
“That ANC public officials, on several occasions, guaranteed the news media and the public access to the report initiated by the public works department and then summarily denied this access similarly speaks to a dismissive attitude on the part of the ANC.
“Their conduct constitutes disrespect not merely for the journalists but for the citizens of the country who have the right of access to information and freedom of expression.”
The study took into account the criticism against the media in the ANC’s 2010 discussion document, ‘Media transformation ownership and diversity’, with the aim to develop researched responses to criticism.
It concluded that the media was in actual fact acting patriotically.
“By seeking to hold politicians accountable and to expose corruption, this body of investigative journalism arguably bolsters due democratic process and thus constitutes a patriotic act.”
The Media Policy and Democracy Project, launched in 2012, is a joint effort between the department of communication science at the University of South Africa (UNISA), and the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.
The full report is available at http://www.mediaanddemocracy.com.
IMAGE: Wikimedia Creative Commons