Weekend Media (7 & 8 March) and By-elections and Voter Apathy

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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[1], as well as MMA’s Election Media Ratings[2].

For the weekend 7 and 8 March, the coverage of the elections remained high.  MMA selected two key issues for comment. These were the by-election results with media focusing on what they mean for Cope and the various stories on voter apathy.

There were various stories about people deciding not to vote (e.g. Mail & Guardian, p. 8; Sunday Times, p. 4).  A key reason for people deciding not to vote was identified as the ANC’s failure to deliver (according to various sources in the different stories).  Accordingly these people have not registered and/or will not be voting in the election.  Tim Cohen and Jabulani Sikhankhane both wrote stories encouraging people to vote (Weekender, p. 6 and Saturday Star, p. 14). Cohen pointed out that not voting means that ANC’s margin is likely to be greater than if people voted.  It is positive that the benefits of being a citizen are explained were explained in this way, as people may be likely to feel that their vote is meaningless if they know the ANC will win, regardless, even if they are ANC supporters.

The other issue was the various stories about the by-elections results, in which Cope did not win a single seat.  This is arguably a predictor for the election results, in that Cope may not have the support it has boasted of, or needs (Mail & Guardian, p. 2; Sunday Independent, p.3; Sunday Times, p. 4).  However, from the coverage, in keeping with the coverage on Friday, it is uncertain to a reader that doesn’t understand the South African electoral system why the by-elections were held.  Considering that our democracy is relatively young, it is likely that most South Africans don’t understand why by-elections were held in some places only.  None of the stories, explained the reason for by-elections to better inform citizenry.

Other coverage was split over a range of stories, although all papers prominently covered Shaik’s medical parole, the coverage was largely not politically focused.  Given that Sunday was International Women’s Day it is very unfortunate that, aside from a few clearly gender focused items in the media monitored, the media missed a clear opportunity to engage key election issues through a gendered lens, or even to highlight the importance of International Women’s Day. ——————————————

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 Open Society Foundation.

________________________________________ 1. The following media are reviewed in the compilation of this report: City Press, Mail & Guardian, Sunday Independent, Sunday Sun, Sunday Times, and Weekender. 2. Please note our full-scale elections monitoring is still in process.  Let us know if you would like your media to be included in the analysis.

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