South Africa’s handling of the Omar al-Bashir issue and the recent upsurge of xenophobic attacks have resulted in a predominantly negative image in international media.
“The country is struggling to attract news coverage for the right reasons,” media monitoring agency Media Tenor reports. The global media monitoring company said a 20-day analysis of coverage on how South Africa was covered by TV stations around the world showed that the failure to arrest al-Bashir has “once again focused attention on the country, attracting negativity levels very similar to those seen during the xenophobic attacks”.
It’s hardly surprising when people such as a former adviser to the UN secretary general, Dr Abiodun Williams, told The Guardian the South African government’s decision to allow al-Bashir’s escape was a betrayal of Nelson Mandela’s legacy. “It is in my view a clear abuse of executive authority by the South African government,” Williams said.
The Media Tenor research – which studied 1 000 reports across 15 different TV programmes including CBS, NBC, FOX, BBC one, BBC two Newsnight, Le Journal, TVE 1 Telediario, ARD Tagesschau and ZDF Heute, among others – found South Africa has struggled with its image in global media with the only “notable positivity” being the hype around the country’s Cricket World Cup aspirations. This, said the report, “attracted notable praise”.
The 20 day analysis found stories making negative headlines included the South Africa’s role in the FIFA scandal, the government’s foreign policy, the country’s perceived lack integrity and of course, corruption. Court cases also featured as a negative in terms of tonality of coverage. But the al-Bashir story stands out for the extensive negative perceptions.
In the meantime, Pretoria High Court judge, Dunstan Mlambo, ruled on Wednesday that the senior government officials – members of the Cabinet and as well as President Jacob Zuma were fingered by Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe as having a hand in al-Bashir’s escape from justice – had violated a court order to detain al-Bashir. He has given government until Thursday to submit an affidavit giving its reasons for allowing al-Bashir to leave South Africa where he had attended the African Union Summit.
The research also includes a year long analysis on how South Africa has reflected globally. The most notable coverage had been the Oscar Pistorius trial and the finding that he was not guilty of murder.
“Since the end of the Oscar trial, international interest in South Africa declined significantly. In 2015 the xenophobic violence in April pushed the country into global headlines as it faced severe negativity,” the report said. “Now in June 2015 we see the failure to arrest Omar Al-Bashir has once again focused attention on the country, attracting negativity levels very similar to those seen during the xenophobic attacks.”
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