The political role of the media in the democratisation of Malawi: The case of the Weekend Nation from 2002 to 2012

Gunde, Anthony Mavuto (2015-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : This study investigated the political role of the Weekend Nation newspaper in the democratisation of Malawi between 2002 and 2012 within the context of its foundational and ownership structures by a politician. Bearing in mind that the newspaper was founded by a politician belonging to the first democratically elected ruling party, the United Democratic Front (UDF), this research sought to examine the impact of media ownership on the political role of the Weekend Nation’s journalistic practices in Malawi’s democratisation. Between 2002 and 2012, Malawi was governed by three presidents – Bakili Muluzi of the UDF from 1994 to 2004, Bingu wa Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from 2004 to 2012, and Joyce Banda of the People’s Party (PP) from 2012 to 2014 – all of whom were hostile to the Weekend Nation. Taking into cognisance the ownership of the Weekend Nation by a politician, the critical political economy theory of the media was deemed to be the most appropriate theoretical framework for this study. In media research, the critical political economy theory asserts that owners are able to regulate the output of the media institution either by intervening in the day-to-day operations, or by establishing general goals and understandings and appointing managerial and editorial staff to implement them within the constraints set by the overall allocation of resources. The study employed a qualitative research methodology, in particular in-depth interviews and qualitative content analysis. Research findings indicate that overall, the political ownership of the newspaper had no direct bearing on the journalists’ political role in the enhancement of democracy and good governance in Malawi. It established that despite the ownership of the Weekend Nation belonging to a prominent and influential politician, the editorial independence was not compromised. Contrary to general expectations, this study established that the Weekend Nation in Malawi, was critical to the political elite in an indiscriminate manner. Although it was not the focus of this study, the research also showed that market forces, in line with the stance taken by the critical political economy theory, had some impact on the Weekend Nation’s editorial independence. The quest for more advertising revenue, to an extent, undermined the struggle for complete editorial independence.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Hierdie studie het die politieke rol van die koerant die Weekend Nation in die demokratisering van Malawi tussen 2002 en 2012 vanuit die konteks van sy fundamentele rol en eienaarskap deur die politieke elite ondersoek. Met as vertrekpunt dat die koerant gestig is deur ’n politikus wat lid was van die eerste demokraties-verkose regerende party, die United Democratic Front (UDF), het hierdie navorsing die impak van media-eienaarskap op die politieke rol van die joernalistieke praktyke van die koerant in Malawi se demokratisering ondersoek. Tussen 2002 en 2012 is Malawi deur drie president regeer – Bakili Muluzi van die UDF van 1994 tot 2004, Bingu wa Mutharika van die Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) van 2004 tot 2012, en Joyce Banda van die People’s Party (PP) van 2012 tot 2014 – al drie was vyandiggesind teenoor die Weekend Nation. In ag genome dat die Weekend Nation aan ’n politikus behoort, is die kritiese politieke ekonomie van die media-teorie die mees toepaslike teoretiese vertrekpunt vir hierdie studie. In medianavorsing dui dié teorie daarop dat die eienaar die inhoud van die media-instelling bepaal deur hetsy inmenging in die dag tot dag uitvoering van pligte, of deur algemene doelwitte en veronderstellings wat gestel word, en deur bestuurders en joernaliste aan te stel wat dit sal uitvoer binne die bepalings van die toegewysde hulpbronne. Die studie het kwalitatiewe navorsingsmetodologie toegepas, spesifiek indiepte- onderhoude en kwalitatiewe inhoudsanalsie. Die bevindings dui daarop dat die eienaarskap van die koerant geen direkte invloed op die joernaliste se politieke rol in die versterking van demokrasie en goeie bestuur in Malawi gehad het nie. Dit het vasgestel dat, ondanks die eienaarskap van die Weekend Nation aan ’n prominente en invloedryke politikus, die redaksionele onafhanklikheid nie gekompromitteer is nie. In teenstelling met algemene verwagtings het die studie bevind dat die Weekend Nation in Malawi krities ingestel was teenoor die politieke elite sonder om enige onderskeid te tref. Hoewel dit nie ’n fokus van die studie was nie, het dit ook aangedui dat markkragte, in ooreenstemming met die kritiese politieke ekonomie-teorie, tog ’n impak op die Weekend Nation se redaksionele onafhanklikheid gehad het. Die stewe na groter advertensie-inkomste het tot ’n mate die stryd vir algehele redaksionele onafhanklikheid ondermyn.

Thesis

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97883
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