20 January 2014

South Africa: Analysis - Reporting Nkandla - Anatomy of a Scandal, and How the Media Responded


Are the media hostile to the ANC? 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?

These are some of the questions that emerge from the ANC's 2010 document entitled "Media transformation ownership diversity". What they reflect is a stand-off off between politicians and journalists. 'The media are hostile to the ANC' has become a familiar catchphrase. Journalists in turn express concerns about the ANC curtailing freedom of expression and access to information.

Because both sets of stakeholders play important roles in media policy debates, and since the media plays a central role in any democracy, these debates need to be empirically informed.

A case study of the news coverage of the government's expenditure on Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead is useful to test the criticisms in the ANC document. These concerns informed a recent study I undertook under the auspices of the Media Policy and Democracy Programme. It focuses on the reporting and editorials of the Nkandla saga in City Press and the Mail & Guardian, both of which have provided...

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