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This book investigates the role of media and communication in processes of democratization in different political and cultural contexts. Struggles for democratic change are periods of intense contest over the transformation of citizenship and the reconfiguration of political power. These democratization conflicts are played out within an increasingly complex media ecology where traditional modes of communication merge with new digital networks, thus bringing about multiple platforms for journalists and political actors to promote and contest competing definitions of reality. The volume draws on extensive case study research in South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Serbia to highlight the ambivalent role of the media as force for democratic change, citizen empowerment, and accountability, as well as driver of polarization, radicalization and manipulation.



Chapter 1. Introduction: Democratization Conflicts as Communicative Contestations

The introductory chapter outlines the theoretical framework and key concepts that inform the contributions of this volume. The chapter argues that democratic transitions are frequently accompanied by intense conflicts that revolve around two key issues: the transformation of citizenship and the reconfiguration of power, often associated with issues of transitional justice and intensifying during elections. These conflicts are conceptualized as democratization conflicts. While existing literature has mainly focused on institutional aspects of post-transitional conflicts, this volume takes a communication approach that understands democratization conflicts as communication events that redefine the relationship between citizens and power. The chapter also introduces the research project Media, Conflict and Democratisation and provides detailed information of the research design and methodologies that are employed across this volume.
Katrin Voltmer

Chapter 12. Conclusion: How Does the Concept of Public Communication Challenge the Concept of a Media System?

The concluding chapter argues that in order for us to understand the true significance of this book it must be contextualized within the history of what was previously called political communication. Voltmer and her team take an alternative route, using the concept of public communication, including non-institutional media, and are able to show a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between political systems and media systems—the latter they rightly refer to as communication systems—on the one hand, and on the other hand the relationship between these and elements of public communication. While media systems are more institutionalized, public communication in its various forms, often informal and improvised, has so far not been able to break down media systems even though it has been able to perforate these in conflict situations.
Terhi Rantanen

Mediating Democratization Conflicts: Communication Technologies, Journalism and Normative Ambiguities


Chapter 2. Media, Power, Citizenship: The Mediatization of Democratic Change

The chapter investigates the concept of mediatization as a theoretical framework to understand the dynamics of democratic transitions and democratization conflicts in an era of hybrid media ecologies. Existing literature on mediatization has focused on advanced Western democracies and the transformative power that media and communication technologies have on democratic politics, assuming an increasing dominance of ‘media logic’ in the political process. Drawing on evidence from Egypt, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa, this chapter extends this debate to transitional politics, arguing that mediatization in emerging democracies is a multi-faceted and often ambiguous process that is used as a resource both for citizen empowerment and authoritarian manipulation, thus at times serving to strengthen democratic transition, at others to undermine it.
Katrin Voltmer, Lone Sorensen

Chapter 3. Conflict-Sensitive Journalism? Journalistic Role Perceptions and Practices in Democratization Conflicts

The chapter explores the role perceptions and practices of journalists across four transitional countries (Egypt, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa). It is based on a comparative analysis of 100 in-depth interviews with journalists covering different democratization conflicts. While journalistic norms of objectivity and the watchdog role seem to have widespread appeal, results also show tensions between these norms and what is possible and indeed desirable in situations of political instability, societal divisions, violence and state interference. The chapter adds in-depth knowledge to existing empirical studies on journalism in conflict societies and highlights the dilemmas, ambiguities and context specific values that guide journalists in uncertain times. The findings point at the emergence of hybrid forms of journalism and their often ambivalent impact on the communication and resolution of democratization conflicts.
Judith Lohner, Irene Neverla, Sandra Banjac

Chapter 4. Peace, But at What Cost? Media Coverage of Elections and Conflict in Kenya

For all of its dynamism, the Kenyan media has faced major challenges during the process of democratization. In 2007–08, when Kenya suffered widespread ethnic clashes following a controversial election, the mainstream media found that existing protocols were insufficient to manage their coverage of the political crisis. This chapter investigates the response of journalists and policy makers to these events and, in particular, how the rise of ‘peaceocracy’—the idea that peace and stability must be promoted above all else—undermined the capacity of the media to speak freely and act in defence of democracy. We do this through interviews with those involved and a focus on the way that those who work in the media think about their role and navigate between different models of journalism.
Nic Cheeseman, Jacinta Maweu, Seth Ouma

Mobilizing Participation: Civil Society, Activism and Political Parties


Chapter 5. Creativity and Strategy: How Civil Society Organizations Communicate and Mobilize in Egypt, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa

Communications are central to how civil society organizations organize themselves—both internally and externally. Communication is the central means by which civil society highlights key issues, challenges the status quo and pushes an agenda for change. This chapter explores the communication strategies of civil society organizations, looking at the theories behind specific strategies, and the constraints civil society experiences in developing effective communications. Examining nanomedia, such as meetings, drama, art, poetry, protests and marches, interactions with mainstream media and the use of social media, the chapter aims to establish common and divergent communication strategies across Egypt, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa.
Tanja Bosch, Wallace Chuma, Herman Wasserman, Rebecca Pointer

Chapter 6. Tweeting in Precarious Times: Comparing Twitter Use During the 2013 General Election in Kenya and the 2012 Presidential Election in Egypt

Despite the emergence of several studies on Twitter’s network effect during election processes, there are only a few studies that take a comparative approach to examine the social media platform’s use in emerging democracies with high levels of political parallelism. This chapter helps bridge this gap by carrying out a thorough Twitter’s network analysis regarding two different presidential elections: the 2012 presidential election in Egypt and the 2013 Kenyan presidential election. The chapter shows that while the two case studies had intense activity levels, there are clear distinctions between them. In Egypt, it is found that mainstream media drove much of the interaction affirming their dominant traditional gatekeeper role. Kenya’s case however shows greater levels of citizen participation, stronger networks and less reliance on mainstream media, which show signs of ‘disintermediation’.
Walid Al-Saqaf, Christian Christensen

Chapter 7. Minority Media, Democratization Conflicts and the Politicization of Coptic Communal Identity in Egypt

What role(s) do minority media play in democratization conflicts involving the transformation of citizenship and collective identities? This chapter investigates how the media of the Coptic minority in Egypt (re-)construct notions of identity in response to state and Islamist discourses with focus on Egypt’s January 2011 uprising and transition. The analysis examines three conflicts: The Alexandria church bombing (January 2011), the Maspero incident (October 2011) and the attack on Saint Mark’s Cathedral during president Morsi’s rule (April 2013). Based on textual analysis of relevant newspapers and interviews with activists, the chapter reveals the politicization and transformation of Coptic identity discourses of two factions: one which assumes a statist nationalist discourse and a radical faction that builds on a persecution discourse to mobilize for a more inclusive public sphere.
Yosra El Gendi, Gamal Soltan

Communicating Power: Institution Building, Strategic Communication and Accountability


Chapter 8. Hybrid Governance, Strategic Communication and the Quest for Institutional Legitimacy

This chapter seeks to understand how formal and informal leaders forge alliances in democratisation conflicts. It compares case studies from Serbia, Kenya and South Africa—three countries that have recently experienced democratic transitions. Drawing on the concepts of hybrid political arrangements and strategic communication, it unpacks the role of the media in crafting and conveying narratives that bestows legitimacy to some actors through the (re)framing of the past. In doing so, it argues that, far from being observers of the conflict, the media are active participants, shaping other actors’ strategies and contributing to advance some narratives. It also suggests that there is a lurking risk that the state could slide back into authoritarianism or be hollowed out and captured by undemocratic forces.
Gianluca Iazzolino, Nicole Stremlau

Chapter 9. Communicating Power and Resistance in Democratic Decline: The 2015 Smear Campaign against Serbia’s Ombudsman

The chapter explores diverging implications of global democratic decline for public communication in new and old democracies. It draws on empirical evidence from a government-sponsored smear campaign against Serbia’s ombudsman between January and May 2015, including data from quantitative and qualitative analyses of print and electronic media and of Twitter content and from semi-structured interviews with key political, civil society and media actors. The analyses of the main arenas of conflict showed the prevalence of emotions and personal beliefs, as opposed to evidence, in public debates, just like in old democracies. It also revealed, however, a much broader repertoire of strategic deception and authoritarian manipulation, which resulted in sharp polarization in public discourse, systematic violations of press freedom and political competition, and a sharply declining quality of journalism.
Nebojša Vladisavljević, Aleksandra Krstić, Jovica Pavlović

Chapter 10. Dialogue of the Deaf: Listening on Twitter and Democratic Responsiveness during the 2015 South African State of the Nation Address

This chapter investigates the use of social media as a channel of communication between citizens and government. It draws on the concept of ‘listening’ in democratic communication (Couldry, N., Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics After Neoliberalism. Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2010; Dobson, A., Listening for Democracy: Recognition, Representation, Reconciliation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). In the run-up to the 2015 State of the Nation Address, the South African presidency conducted a listening exercise on Twitter, which failed on all counts. Combining quantitative and qualitative analyses of Twitter conversations, the chapter evaluates the quality of listening and identifies the reasons for the collapse of the conversation. The findings suggest that while poorly performed listening campaigns can result in spiralling frustration among citizens, social media platforms like Twitter can also provide opportunities for governments to listen in a manner that serves a more positive relationship with citizens.
Lone Sorensen, Heather Ford, Walid Al-Saqaf, Tanja Bosch

International Perspectives


Chapter 11. The Participation Approach in Media Development Cooperation

Media assistant organizations (MAO) are important actors in transitional and conflict societies. By providing training and resources, they aim to strengthen professionalism and political independence of journalists in transitional and fragile societies. MAOs have been criticized for their top-down approach to development that regards partners as mere receivers of knowledge and assistance rather than active participants. After a critical overview of the changing paradigms in media assistance over the last decades, the chapter presents findings from in-depth interviews with professionals in the field. The interview material shows that MAOs are re-defining their role by adopting a more participatory and holistic approach that also includes civil society groups and audiences. However, pressures by donors, political constraints and limited resources are obstacles that often prevent these ideas to be implemented.
Ines Drefs, Barbara Thomass


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