The South African Media’s coverage of the Abu Ghraib Prisoner abuses: an ethical case study of two selected newspapers

Buchinger, Christine (2006-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Journalism))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


Abstract: This study analyses the reporting of the Iraqi prisoner abuse issue at Abu Ghraib as reported upon by two South African newspapers from an ethical point of view. The focus falls on the issue of accuracy. Accuracy in war reporting of geographically distant conflicts as exemplified with this case study is a delicate and important matter, the media often being the only window for the public to learn of and about a conflict. In this case study, the two South African newspapers Cape Times and Mail&Guardian will be analysed to show the extent of their adherence to codes of conduct and exemplify the problematic practicalities in ethical reporting on international news. With the main focus of the study being on the ethical issues concerning accuracy, other relevant topics, such as ‘objectivity’, balance, fairness and truth telling, as well as more practical concerns will also be partially considered. The selected case studies are contextualized within the South African media environment so as to yield a better insight into the choices made on an editorial and/or newsroom level. As case studies, selected articles from the Cape Times and the Mail&Guardian during a three-month time-span are analysed using Day’s Situation/Analysis/Decision (SAD) model. Each article will further be analysed from the point of view of the newspaper’s own code of conduct and overarching ethical codes such as the South African Press Ombudsman’s Code of Conduct as well as in terms of the South African laws relevant to the media industry.

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