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Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

155 From a purely

155 From a purely numbers point of view, the Unity Frame was the dominant frame in the newspapers corpus in this case study (See Table 5.1). As the largest frame in this case study, the Unity Frame has the numbers to make it the dominant frame. However, the foregoing discussion on dissonance in the Unity Frame raises questions as to whether or not this was the BNL newspapers and the Chronicle‟s preferred frame in the 1999 post- election period. Certainly, there are no indications that the MCP/AFORD alliance (the BNL newspapers‟ owners) intended to make national unity an issue in the post-election period as they had done in the 1994 case study. However, the manifest regional voting patterns and the furious but mercifully short outbursts of violence which characterised the post-election period seemed to have thrust the question of unity onto the newspapers‟ editorial agenda. Thus the news values of negativity and conflict coupled with the suffering of citizens uprooted by the violence and burning mosques and churches seem to have played a deciding hand in this respect. In the end the violence was sustained enough and at a large enough scale to raise the Unity Frame in terms of amount of coverage above the other two frames. The crafting of the Electoral Process Frame seems to suggest that this may have been the preferred frame of the BNL newspapers and the Chronicle in the post-election period. This is evident in the emphasis of the commentaries. Entman (1993) suggests that one framing tool used by journalists is selective emphasis – what is emphasized and what is de-emphasized. Unlike the motley arrangement of the Unity Frame, the construction of the Electoral Process Frame suggests a more concerted arrangement around three main strands. First, all the newspapers including the NPL newspapers, which tended to side with the ruling UDF, agreed that the MEC had mismanaged the elections. Second, there was expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of a constitutional provision for a run off in the

156 event of a minority winner emerging out of a tight election like the 1999 presidential election. Third, even though there was dissatisfaction with some of the High Court‟s rulings, the newspapers agreed that the judiciary was the right institution to give the nation direction. All of these arguments coalesced into one theme which unambiguously condemned the MEC for mismanaging the electoral process and accused it for conspiring with the UDF to defraud the Malawian people of duly elected leadership. Further, in crafting this frame in this manner, the BNL newspapers and the Chronicle sought to use the technique of value disassociation in order to demonstrate that both the MEC and the UDF did not cherish the democratic values of freedom of choice and fairness in democratic elections. As Nelson, Wittmer and Shortle (2010, p.13) note regarding value disassociation, “. . . communicators must convince the public that their opponents do not hold legitimate claims to a cherished value.” Indeed, the BNL newspapers and the Chronicle argued that the President Muluzi and his UDF were ungracious winners in their ill-gotten victory as an editorial writer in the Chronicle (1999a) noted: They proceeded to hold a victory rally even before the results were known. At that rally they lambasted and berated their challengers with words that were not edifying nor conducive to peace and harmony. Even at the speedily conducted inauguration, threatening words were used. . . . This is hardly the type of statements that one expects from a head of state, never mind that his position is disputed. All of these arguments were consistently presented at every stage of the frame component starting from the problem definition to the treatment recommendation. The end result was a frame which was effectively emphatic about the MEC‟s incompetence and the fraudulent nature of the UDF‟s victory. This discussion has noted that the NPL

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