Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has monitored every democratic election in South Africa. This year we are doing the same, providing daily and weekly reports on media coverage of election news, as well as MMA’s Election Media Ratings.

Top elections stories for Tuesday 24 March are:

1. The IEC ruling in response to complaints from parties on the eligibility of Winnie Madikizele-Mandela to be on the election list:

• Beeld, p. 4;
• Daily Sun, p. 5;
• Sowetan, p. 4;
• The Citizen, p. 4;
• The Star, p. 1, 6.

The first ANC-sponsored comic in the Daily Sun was published today. It is about land reform and service delivery to a farm by the ANC government. The cartoon appeared a few pages before a regular feature by the Daily Sun on problems which citizens experience at the hands of Home Affairs. While caricaturing the Department of Home Affairs as “Horror Affairs”, this initiative is laudable as it not only publicises the problems people have, but also attempts to solve them. MMA has noted the minimal coverage afforded to the elections by the Daily Sun in previous daily reports. It may be argued that that the ANC should be credited for having seen the elections coverage gap in the Daily Sun and using this to target voters through the cartoon. Daily Sun coverage of government is often negative, relating to failure in service delivery and other socio-economic issues. However, because of its low elections coverage thus far, and the ANC cartoon advertising being a weekly feature, there is a risk that the Daily Sun could be seen to be biased in favour of the ANC overall.

Political party advertising does raise issues of fairness and access, as smaller parties may not have the resources to fund advertising campaigns. Certainly in broadcasting, an effort is made to ensure parties do have some access to communicate their core messages via Party Elections Broadcasts delivered through mass media.  This year, for the first time, political party advertising has been permitted on television. This again favours the well resourced parties only. For print media, outlets should be in a position to offer discounted rates. Not only would this bring in more revenue for the newspapers through increased number of advertisements, but it would also encourage greater diversity in messages being disseminated. Ultimately however, for print media it will and should be the editorial policy of each paper that will determine the quality of coverage of the elections. MMA encourages Daily Sun to meet its responsibilities to its readers, and provide them with accessible, diverse and fair coverage in the run up to the elections.

For more information please contact Sandra Roberts on 084 9000 344 or 011 788 1278 or William Bird on 082 887 1370.

The Daily Reports are made possible by the Open Society Foundation.

Media Monitoring Africa is acting as impartial observer of the SABC’s elections coverage.

The following media are reviewed in the compilation of this report: Daily Sun, etv primetime news; SABC 3 primetime news; Sowetan, The Citizen, The Star, and The Times.