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

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

197 government. All

197 government. All these are issues which the ordinary citizens could relate to. By framing the problem definition in this manner, the newspapers‟ editorial writers were able to “. . . put a human face and emotional angle . . .” to the challenges facing the nation as Semetko and Valkenburg, (2000, p.95) argue regarding framing issues from a human interest point of view. While the problem definition was intended to resonate with the citizens, it could also have elicited the powerful action of influencing “. . . a rational decision or judgment to carefully evaluate organizational responsibility . . .” as Cho and Gower (2006, p.5) argued. The use of such human interest attributes to frame the problem definition leads to a more negative attitude towards the crisis and usually leads to negative attitudes towards the perceived causal agents of the problem (Cho and Gower, 2006). In this respect, such a strongly resonant problem definition led to sharply focused causal attributions that placed blame for Malawi‟s economic woes on former president Bakili Muluzi‟s and his government‟s “. . . lax and negligent . . .” (Daily Times, 2004d, p.2) fiscal policies, permitting cabinet ministers and senior civil servants to “. . . indulge in rampant corruption . . .” (Daily Times, 2004e, p.2) and a weak parliament that simply “. . . rubber stamped . . .” Muluzi‟s unsound fiscal programmes. Clearly, these challenges were framed in the context of the economic consequences of many years of fiscal indiscipline and poor economic management. According to Neuman, Just, & Crigler (1992) to cover an event in this manner draws attention to the widespread impact of the issue on society in general and the individual. This, in turn, raises the importance of the issue, which is why the economic consequences angle is widely used in the media. By design or accident, Mutharika‟s crafting of the challenges facing the nation and their origins and the press‟s framing of these challenges gave rise

198 to the Challenges Frame and its attendant condemnation of the previous regime and hope for the future in the new president‟s supposed abilities to deal with these issues. 6.3.4 Summary In the absence of partisan pressure on the press, the frames in the newspapers were mainly shaped by the universal news values that influence press coverage. The continuity of covering a president whose campaign period had been blighted by negative coverage presented the press with an opportunity to assess Mutharika, not just as a presidential candidate, but also as president. In this respect, reflecting the lack of partisan pressure on the press, the editorial writers were able to progressively re-assess the president from negative framing to positive. Further, the obvious conflict between Mutharika and his party provided a conflict angle which usually ensures coverage in the press. In addition, it was easy to encapsulate the complex issues surrounding Mutharika‟s economic agenda and his conflict with his party into a discussion of the person of the new president and his party boss, Bakili Muluzi. Mutharika‟s crafting of his economic agenda so resonated with the press and the National Assembly that he was able to draw positive moral assessments. A powerful framing tool in the National Assembly was the dependency on biblical metaphor and culturally resonant exemplar to positively describe Mutharika‟s administration and to negatively describe the former administration led by Bakili Muluzi. Mutharika‟s economic agenda drew positive framing, as can be noted in the Challenges Frames, because it focused on the human interest aspect of such challenges to the nation. In this respect, the new president attributed all these challenges to an incompetent and corrupt previous administration. Consequently, the negative framing aimed at the UDF and

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