Election coverage 18, 19 April 2009 – Voter Education and Encouragement

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Election coverage for the weekend 18-19 April was notable for the significantly higher levels of informative coverage on the process of voting as well as on the parties themselves as compared to previous weeks’ coverage.  Newspapers also encouraged South Africans to use their democratic right and vote.

All reviewed newspapers encouraged South Africans to vote:
• City Press, p. 1 (comment);
• Mail & Guardian, p. 26 (editorial);
• Saturday Star, p. 14 (editorial);
• Sunday Independent, p. 4;
• Sunday Sun, p. 14 (editorial);
• Sunday Times, p4, Lifestyle p. 3; and,
• Weekender, p. 7.

While the encouragement of all citizens to participate in democracy by casting their vote should be welcomed, it is a pity that a similar drive and common cause was not present when people had greater opportunity to register to vote.

The Saturday Star did a full page piece about how to vote, and none of the media previously reviewed for the daily reports have done so (although Sunday Sun said that the Daily Sun would explain the process).  The reason for the absence of basic voter education may be as a result of an assumption by media that people will remember from the previous election.  However, there are many new voters registered for these elections and the last general elections were five years ago.  The Saturday Star article by Gaye Davis asked many questions which will be helpful for voters.  The Mail & Guardian provided similar information (p. 24). The diagram also shows exactly what the voting station will be like and which officials voters are likely to encounter on the day.

Some newspapers explored the manifestos of the political parties.  The most comprehensive of which is the Democracy 2009 supplement in the Mail & Guardian.  The paper explores parties’ manifestos, and in the case of the ANC, examines them in terms of past performance.  Mail & Guardian’s comments are set against the election promises of prominent parties’ election promises , though sometimes the comments did not address the point in such a way as to help voters.  An example is Cope’s suggestion to “Improve conditions for health workers”, to which M&G said “A no-brainer.  But what’s the plan?” This comment does not explain whether the manifesto is short on details, whether the party has not elaborated on this in other discussions, or whether this comment is just sarcastic.

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For more information please contact Sandra Roberts on 084 9000 344 or 011 788 1278 or William Bird on 082 887 1370.
These reports are made possible by the Open Society and Free Voice Foundations.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has monitored every democratic election in South Africa. This year we are doing the same, providing daily and weekly reports on media coverage of election news, as well as MMA’s Election Media Ratings

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The following daily media reviewed for the compilation of this report were City Press, Mail & Guardian, Sunday Independent, Sunday Sun, Sunday Times, and Weekender.

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