Book Chapter

The "Lack of Listening" During South African Election News Coverage: Ramifications for Peace and Democracy



Jones B (2023) The "Lack of Listening" During South African Election News Coverage: Ramifications for Peace and Democracy. In: Omanga D, Mare A & Mainye PC (eds.) Digital Technologies, Elections and Campaigns in Africa. 1 ed. African Governance. London: Routledge.

When a society cannot see themselves, they cannot fully deliberate on issues that affect them. This, as Duncan (2009) and Mbembe (2015) tell us, is media’s critical role in the democratisation process. This chapter investigates the problematic news framing and media organisation in South Africa during general elections, using semiotic and narrative analysis on digital and television news broadcasts. A “top-down” (Wasserman 2014) organisation of South African media with a focus on elite voices means that the representation of society is biased towards authorities, ignoring the view from the ground. Journalists disengage with political leaders and citizens over time, relying on elite voices and fixating on the details of violence, which increases the distance between the audience, society, and politics. Simplistic representation leaves little room to explore deeper consequences and the ramifications for peace in the country are devastating. Africans are no longer agents in their own stories, merely background actors with a journalist or pundit doing the explaining, guiding, unfolding. If audiences are only ever presented with pundits, prophets, and proclaimers, it becomes increasingly unlikely they are able to independently assess the political landscape themselves, destabilising participatory democracy. A recommendation here is to diversify representation, foregrounding citizen voices.

media and democracy, South African democracy, news reporting, journalism studies

StatusIn Press
Title of seriesAfrican Governance
Publication date online31/12/2023
Publisher URL…ok/9781032551166
Place of publicationLondon
ISSN of series2689-0720

People (1)


Dr Bernadine Jones

Dr Bernadine Jones

Lecturer in Journalism, Communications, Media and Culture