Article reflects downright bias towards Malema’s EFF

2014-01-26 14:00

Story was framed beyond normalcy, writes Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha

Mass media and communication scholars have long highlighted the considerable power of the press, film and radio to shape public opinion and how the media uses this in election times.

For the press, this is done through content framing, presentation and style beyond normalcy in favour of a position or party. The City Press front-page story, “Will it be ANC vs EFF” was framed beyond normalcy and had a pro-Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) bias.

Both subheadlines hinted one story would be about the EFF’s Nkandla event and the other about the ANC manifesto launch.

The manner in which these were framed changed this, as only 27 words out of the 1?778 from both articles mentioned the ANC manifesto launch, while the rest were about the EFF event, poll predictions and ANC factions.

The Nkandla-event story by Paddy Harper wrongly said Julius Malema took his election campaign to President Jacob Zuma’s home when in fact he was at the home next to his.

The majority of the story, including the headline, focused on the new house and attempts by some ANC members to block Malema, which is fine.

Besides Malema’s anti-ANC rhetoric, the talk about the ANC comes in through Ipsos survey results predicting ANC voter peeling at the polls, followed by varied political analysts’ comments.

On the other hand, the ANC manifesto-launch article had no mention of what it said but more about the Malema incident, ANC factions and poll performance predictions.

Interestingly, only the 14 words in the introduction mention the ANC manifesto launch, while 20 words repeat the Ipsos survey story mentioned in the EFF article, with the following 67 words repeating the Nkandla event.

Strangely, the subsequent 345 words also repeat views expressed following the Ipsos survey and more EFF poll predictions, with about 188 words on the aborted factional plan to remove Zuma as the face of the ANC elections, with a 301-word kicker about how crime intelligence prevented recruited EFF members from booing Zuma.

In essence, dear reader, out of 948 words, including the headline, in the ANC story, 921 words were not about the ANC manifesto but the EFF Nkandla event, Ipsos survey, ANC factions involving EFF, leaving only 14 words about the manifesto, making 27 words when you include the 13-word subhead, excluding Jeff Radebe and Siyabonga Cwele’s comments.

I don’t suggest that Harper should have reported his story differently, but I suggest that Sabelo Ndlangisa, Carien du Plessis, Sizwe sama Yende and Jacques Pauw should have given us more information about the ANC manifesto launch.

Both articles portray the ANC negatively, while the EFF gets cuddling avowal, inspiring me to argue that the newspaper failed to inform and educate the reader with proper information to engage in the political discourse ahead of the elections.

As we go to the elections, it is important that the media is wedded to ethical reporting not to impress political-party communicators and bosses but to educate the electorate.

I expected the page 5 highlights of the ANC and EFF manifesto priorities to highlight what the ANC has achieved and not achieved from 1994.?In the way it is, it sustains the bias and parallels these political upstarts with the ANC when it has done a lot of good work to move South Africa forward, despite the challenges.

»?Sicwetsha is a public servant and a member of the ANC. He writes in his personal capacity

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