Dewani trial, a social media hit

By Drum Digital
11 October 2014

While witness testimony in the Shrien Dewani trial made news headlines this week, revelations around the murder-accused husband's sexuality set social media alight, media monitoring group ROi Africa said.

While witness testimony in the Shrien Dewani trial made news headlines this week, revelations around the murder-accused husband's sexuality set social media alight, media monitoring group ROi Africa said on Saturday.

"In news media, Qwabe's testimony takes the forefront, but in social media, Dewani's sexuality is the focus," ROi Africa's managing director Tonya Khoury said in a statement.

Khoury said that in the South African media, nearly one third of all items were about the honeymoon murder trial which began on Monday. This coverage was second only to news about President Jacob Zuma which made up just over 40 percent of all national media reports.

Statistics about media coverage for the first week of the trial were obtained by assessing almost 200 million international social networks, 60,000 online newspapers around the globe, thousands of printed publications from SA and other parts of Africa, as well as 40 South African radio and TV stations.

Dewani, a British businessman is currently on trial for the murder of his wife, Anni Hindocha, after she was shot during a hijacking while on their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010. Three men have already been convicted for the crime. It is alleged that Dewani masterminded the plan. He has pleaded not guilty to all the related charges. Khoury said that the fact that the trial was not being televised or broadcast had left social media as the main source of coverage.

"For every 8 news items, social media delivered 92."

Just over 40 percent of all social media discussion focused on Dewani's revelation of his bisexuality, followed by posts about his internet activity on fetish and gay websites as well as his alleged interaction with a male prostitute, Leopold Leisser, dubbed the 'German Master'.

However, just over one percent of posts questioned the relevance of these discussions: "Some viewed it as homophobic commentary," said Khoury.

She said Twitter contained a "good chunk" of the social media buzz, followed by a blog called 'Gay News Headlines', as well as various international and national news blogs. British blogs about women's issues and opinions also contributed to the discussion.

In terms of all international and national media coverage of the trial -from both news and social media platforms, nearly half, 47,4 percent, dealt the testimony of convicted killer Mziwamadoda Qwabe.

Abut a fifth of the reports addressed Dewani's disclosure of his bisexuality.

Discussion about the stomach cramps of Dewani and Qwabe that stopped the trial on Thursday, just pipped media discussion of femicide with 4.61 percent to 4.11 percent respectively.

Anni Hindoncha was mentioned in 8,24 percent of worldwide media coverage of the case.

Khoury said that proportionally Anni was in fact being mentioned more in the media than Reeva Steenkamp was during the trial surrounding her death.

Steenkamp was the girlfriend of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius who last month was convicted of culpable homicide for shooting her dead.

Pistorius has said he believed there was an intruder in his house.

His sentencing is due to start on Monday.

Khoury explained that - at the height of the Pistorius trial, details of Steenkamp's life were covered in about 15 percent of media reports on the matter.

Thus far, however, Hindoncha's life was being reported on in about 25 percent of media sources on the Dewani trial.

Furthermore, a total of 7,5 percent of news and social media discussion about the Dewani trial, included comparisons to the Pistorius case.

In fact, while internationally, the Dewani trial made almost no impact in global news - 0,04 percent of articles were about it - South Africa retained some presence internationally with 1.5 percent of global news reporting on the upcoming sentencing of Pistorius.

Nevertheless, of the countries following the Dewani case, SA was at the top, followed by the United Kingdom and the United States.

Other countries where the trial had a media presence included Australia, Ireland, India, Sweden, New Zealand, France and Jordan.

Khoury said Jordan seemed to be picking up the news from international wire agencies.


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