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

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

259 favouring one side

259 favouring one side in political coverage. The third is decision-making bias in which the journalists‟ motivations and mindsets allegedly produce the biased conduct – in short, the journalistic culture. This section will attempt to demonstrate that the latter two are manifest in the frames detected in the corpora of this study. In doing this, this section will explore how agenda-setting and framing interlinked in the framing process deliberately set in motion by political actors and the press. With respect to content bias, the press used agenda-building and agenda cutting to present the political position of their owners. First, the press consistently and without question built up the position of their relevant owners. Second, the press sort to undercut the rival political position by refusing to give it any mention. Considering that there were two basic political positions, ruling party/opposition, the appearance of two irreconcilable positions was starkly reflected in the press. The frames detected in the various corpora revealed culling of a few elements of the perceived reality existing in Malawi in 1994, 1999 and 2004. For example, the Unity Frame in 1994 and 1999, the BNL newspapers reduced political reality to a nation on the brink of chaos and ultimate fission. By the Governance Frames, the Nation and the Chronicle emphasized a new governance system that would take the nation forward and ultimately liberate the potential of the individual citizen. Through these frames, newspaper editorial writers sought to shape and alter the public sphere‟s interpretations of political reality and preference through the priming of national unity and governance. As Krosnick and Kinder (1990) and Pan and Kosicki (1997) argued, intended or not, the effect of this kind of priming of political reality would be to influence the public sphere‟s evaluation of political actors especially government leadership on just the two issues of the quality of national leadership and governance. That is, these frames introduced or raise the salience or apparent importance of these ideas, activating the

260 target audience to think, feel and decide in a particular way as frame scholars argue (Chong & Druckman, 2007; Gross & D‟Ambrosio, 2004; Iyengar & Simon, 1993; Kim, Scheufele & Shanahan, 2002; Price, Twesbury & Power, 1997). By consistently following the party-line, the press set a partisan agenda that reflected the political binaries existing in the national political discourse in 1994 and 1999. The MCP/AFORD alliance used the BNL newspaper to set forth its agenda for the nation while the Nation and the Chronicle were happy to carry the UDF agenda in the name of democratising the nation. Just as the press permitted itself to prime rival political agendas and to reflect the political binaries dominating the national political discourse in 1994 and 1999, the press also undercut the rival agenda. Wober (2002) has argued that media framing of issues and events can be interpreted through the prism of what he calls „agenda-cutting‟. He defines the term as: . . . a name for a variety of ways and instances in which a topic or an actual or potentially significant news story either finds itself low on the news agenda, or even out of it; in some ways it may be present, but with a negative rather than neutral or perhaps deservedly positive tone (p.64). Agenda-cutting is the corollary of priming, where the media foreground particular issues as the most newsworthy ones deserving a place on the public agenda (Severin & Tankard, 1992; McCombs & Shaw, 1995). The press‟s framing of political issues starting from 1994 was characterised by both agenda-setting (as noted in the preceding paragraphs) and agenda-cutting processes. The framing of the post election periods through both “government” and “oppositional” journalism was informed by the existing binaries which were integral to the political discourse in Malawi at the time. On the one hand, this discourse attributed

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