Election Coverage 4 March 2009 – Shaik and Evita Share the Limelight

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Media Monitoring Africa 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.

Top elections stories for Wednesday, 4 March are:

1. Schabir Shaik’s medical parole on the grounds that he has a terminal illness. Although some stories and/or editorials did not include the responses from political parties, it was clearly linked in most instances to political affairs:
• Beeld, p. 1, 12;
• Business Day, p. 4, 11;
• Daily Sun, p. 2;
• etv, item 1;
• SABC 3, item 6;
• Sowetan, p. 6, 14 (cartoon);
• The Citizen, p. 4 (a few related stories);
• The Star, p. 1, 12; and,
• The Times, p. 11.

There is much speculation about the release of Shaik so soon after comments by Jacob Zuma saying that he would not have a problem
approving a pardon of Shaik, if the decision was already made. Other families with relatives dying in prison reportedly complained about preferential treatment.  Some stories indicated that the matter may be more about access to justice as a result of Schabir Schaik having being able to draw on highly skilled legal expertise.  It seems another missed opportunity that this angle wasn’t drawn on as a matter for political parties to comment on.  Instead, the majority of coverage and political party response focused on calls for a review of the decision to release Schabir Schaik.

Clearly, if the decision was not arrived at as a result of due process, a commission should be held to investigate the process.  Nonetheless, broader issues of access to justice as a result of economic inequality could form an important focus of questions to political parties, rather than merely providing them with a platform for simple campaigning over the circumstances of one individual.

2. Evita Bezuidenhout’s launch of Evita’s People’s Party manifesto was widely covered with pictures of her and her ‘Jacob Zuma’ puppet.
• Beeld, p. 6;
• Business Day, p. 4;
• Sowetan, p. 3;
• The Citizen, p. 1, 3;
• The Star, p. 6; and,
• The Times, p. 3.

While most of the stories served as positive publicity for Evita’s show and focused on the launch event, important messages around the importance of voting were conveyed.  We hope that Pieter Dirk Uys will continue to use high-profile coverage like this to inform people of their democratic rights as citizens, and that media will actively disseminate these messages.

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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.

The Daily Reports are made possible by the Open Society Foundation.

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1. The following media are reviewed in the compilation of this report: Beeld, Business Day, Daily Sun, e-tv primetime news, SABC 3 primetime news, Sowetan, The Citizen, The Star, and The Times.

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