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Saturday, 28 September 2013

ELECTION COVERAGE FOUND WANTING



Newspapers in Swaziland set out to mislead their readers about the true nature of this month’s national election, claiming that people were voting for a government when they were not, a report just published says.

And, rather than discussing issues relating to the social, political or economic policies a new government should pursue, media concentrated on trying to demonstrate the election’s legitimacy.

Swaziland is not a democracy and King Mswati III rules his kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. The newspaper and broadcasting houses in Swaziland support the status-quo and it was an imperative for media to continually show support for the political system of tinkhundla / monarchical democracy, according to a report published by Swazi Media Commentary. 

This meant there was no debate about which social, political or economic policies a new parliament should pursue. Newspapers confused readers about the nature of the elections: constantly claiming that they were to elect a ‘government’, when they were not. King Mswati appoints the Prime Minister and senior ministers.

The report called Media Coverage of the Swaziland Election 2013 is available on scribd dot com. It reviews coverage by local, international and social media in the months running up to the election on 20 September 2013.

Newspapers failed to cover the whole of Swaziland in the election reporting and were biased towards favoured candidates.

The report is critical of the standards of journalism in Swaziland. It says media in Swaziland, ‘are partisan, inaccurate and generally unprofessional and they are turning into an irrelevant vehicle in public discourse. Journalists lack credibility. Content in the Swazi newspaper is compromised by a lack of professionalism in writing and editing. Interesting news stories are watered down by the incomprehensible way they are written, leaving the reader confused and bewildered. 

‘Comment articles expose readers to un-researched opinion pieces that have compromised journalistic standards and some journalists willingly work as propagandists, especially at the SBIS radio.’
 
Journalists, the report says, ‘sensationalised news and often reported as facts, pure conjecture’.

In contrast, the report says international news media were not very interested in covering the election, because, unlike in democracies, no power could change hands as a result of the voting. When they did report on the election they emphasised the fact that it had little meaning because the parliament that was being elected had no power.

The report also looks at social media sites that were publishing information and comment in contrast to the mainstream media in Swaziland and advocating for democracy. The report concludes that social media probably had limited influence within Swaziland because only about 7 percent of the population has access to the Internet.

See also

Swaziland Media Need Code of Conduct for Covering Elections

The state of Swazi journalism, 2013


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