13th December, 2023

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) Unveils Findings on South African Media Coverage of Loadshedding: Protecting or Violating Information Rights?

JOHANNESBURG – Loadshedding, a term familiar to every South African, has been an enduring reality since 2007, shaping the experiences of individuals, businesses, and communities. As South Africa’s electricity supply entity, Eskom, grapples with this ongoing challenge, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has conducted a thorough analysis of media coverage of loadshedding from June 2020 to June 2023.

Loadshedding, as defined by Eskom, is “a controlled process that responds to unplanned events to protect the electricity power system from a total blackout.” Despite the ubiquity of the term, MMA questions whether the media has effectively conveyed the complexity of this issue, especially considering its significant impact on South African businesses and livelihoods.

MMA’s analysis focuses on whether the media, as the fourth estate mandated to provide information to the public, has protected and promoted the general public’s information rights, particularly the right to access information and freedom of speech. This inquiry is crucial given the importance of loadshedding, an issue that has not only dominated media coverage but also affected many aspects of daily life.

Information rights, encompassing privacy, free speech, and access to information, are fundamental to a thriving democracy. MMA contends that for democracy to flourish, media coverage must be adequately unpacked, providing citizens with quality and credible information. Furthermore, ordinary citizens should have a platform to speak on issues of national importance, such as loadshedding.

The analysis period, from June 2020 to June 2023, was chosen due to 2020 being noted as an intense loadshedding year, according to research by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research. Using Dexter, an in-house monitoring tool, MMA collected and analysed 39,521 news items from 81 South African online and print media sources.

This report explores the question as to whether the South African media promoted or violated the information rights of the general public in coverage of loadshedding. Aspects such as quality of information in the coverage and sources speaking will be critically analysed, among others, to arrive at the conclusion.

Media Monitoring Africa has been a respected authority in media analysis and advocacy for three decades. With a commitment to promoting responsible and ethical journalism, MMA seeks to contribute to a more informed and accountable media landscape, ultimately benefiting the broader public discourse on vital issues such as loadshedding.

Read full report here:

Loadshedding and Information Rights

For more information, please contact:

Lister Namumba, Programme Manager: Monitoring, Research and Analysis, listerr@mma.org.za, 011 788 1278.

Media Monitoring Africa.