During election time, the media has a pivotal role to play in communicating information to voters and facilitating their making of informed decisions on Election Day. For this reason Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has been monitoring coverage, gathering data and providing analysis since the first South African national and provincial elections in 1994. This report assesses the results of monitoring coverage preceding and immediately after the fourth national democratic election, which took place on 22 April 2009, and reflects findings from 56 South African print and broadcast media. While considering the media’s mandate for fairness and balance in coverage, the report also considers the quality of the coverage that deals with the issues that materially influence South African citizens’ lives and futures as a fundamental function of the right to free speech and self-determination. Furthermore, this report takes the opportunity to explicitly engage with questions of gender in the context of election coverage. The findings are based on quantitative analysis and a rating system that allows for comparison and ranking of media performance. MMA proposes that while the South African media landscape demonstrated good levels of balance and fairness in its coverage, there is an opportunity to develop greater rigour in dealing with topics of importance to citizens, in order to better inform voters on key election issues.

Download the full report here.