South African press, accountability and transparency in governance: an analytic study on the coverage of the public protector’s role in the Mail and Guardian newspaper 2014-2015

22 Nov 2017

: In the light of the constitutional responsibility of Chapter 9 institutions in democratic South Africa, the study analyses how the Mail & Guardian newspaper reported on the duties of the public protector as the vanguard of people’s rights between 2014 and 2015. It analyses the editorial ‛‛frames” and ‛‛agenda setting” that highlighted the public protector’s role in exposing corruption and the misdeeds of some senior government officials, particularly on issues of national interest. This is in recognition of the potential influence of the news media on shaping public opinion, which in this case, helped to facilitate open civic debate, mobilise support and buy-in from the citizens towards the advancement of democratic values. Data were collected through content analysis of news articles with reportage on matters arising from the public protector’s scope of operations. Articles for analysis were selected on the basis of their ‛‛news value” criteria where transparency and accountability in the different spheres of governance were prominent indicators. Thematic content analysis was adopted to synthesise data into intelligible findings and conclusion. In the end, the study noted that the press’ editorial coverage of the public protector’s findings helped to stimulate national interest and further gave impetus towards creating awareness about the institution’s mandate in the context of good governance. Thus, the press should be viewed as an invaluable part of the multi-lateral approach that complements effort from other monitoring and control portfolios such as the Auditor General and the Hawks towards the promotion of responsible leadership, good governance and sustenance of a corruption-free society.