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

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

39 as a response to the

39 as a response to the state‟s efforts to close down the democratic space. Such journalism is open to charges of political motivation. In such circumstances the state only responds by applying repressive and legal measures to curtail this kind of journalism. According to Chuma (2007, p.169), the “independent nationalist” form of journalism is designed to serve the national interest. It attempts “. . . to provide a dispassionate, non-partisan approach . . .” to its coverage of national contests. The coverage is dynamic and nuanced. However, Chuma (2007, p.169) notes that shifts across these forms of journalism are to be expected especially when ownership changes. With particular reference to Malawi, Chimombo & Chimombo (1996) propose two types of journalism operating in Malawi since 1992. Using a content analysis procedure, they demonstrated the shift made by the Malawi News from a form of patriotic journalism when it acted as mouthpiece of the government and the ruling party during the one party era to „opposition‟ journalism when the MCP lost power in 1994. In this respect, Chimombo & Chimombo‟s findings seem to suggest the presence of, at least, „opposition‟ journalism in Malawi. Further, Chimombo & Chimombo (1996) coined the phrase „government journalism‟ referring to the type of journalism prevalent in newspapers sponsored by or associated with government as a counterpoint to opposition journalism. This journalism is supposed to reflect government positions and generally support government. However, such newspapers are supposed to present issues in a manner reflective of national interest rather than blind support of the government or the ruling party. Chimombo & Chimombo‟s conceptualisation of „government journalism‟ appear to be somewhere between Chuma (2007) and Ranger (2005) conceptualisation of „patriotic‟ journalism and „national interest‟ journalism. As noted in this section, ownership can play a strong hand in influencing the conduct of journalists. This was a factor that Mano (2005) noted in his study of

40 ownership and its influence on journalism in Zimbabwe. He observed that ownership can create conditions that undermine the professional practice of journalists. In this respect, due to difficult economic conditions, journalists find it difficult to move away from professionally unfavourable work environs especially if these environs provide a modicum of job security and economic benefits. Instead, they compromise professional standards for job security. As Mano (2005:68) notes: Employees internalized the values of their employers. They cooperated rather than risk a fall out with the proprietor.” In the same respect, Chuma (2007, p.169) concludes that the bifurcated media framing during times of political contests is as a result of the sharp divisions inherent among the elements that control the media. This polarisation is reflected in the media‟s framing of political issues and contests. Thus, for Chuma (2007) the critical-rational debate which is supposed to be located in the media as sites of democratic discourse have been eroded by elements outside the media which profoundly affect the way the media operate. Such elements include ownership, civil society and the state. 2.3 The Malawian Democratic Experiment and the Media The previous section dealt with universal issues of ownership and the media‟s role in democracy. Attempts were made in that section to link the discussion closer to the Malawian situation media environment by reviewing literature for other parts of Africa. This section attempts to more closely examine the context in which the Malawian media operate by describing its political environment and the challenges experienced in the process of democratisation. Then the section will examine broadly the media landscape in Malawi including ownership. This will be followed by a review of the literature on political communication.

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