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This edited collection is a cutting-edge volume that reframes political communication from an African perspective. Focusing on sub-Saharan Africa and occasionally drawing comparisons with other regions of the world, this book critically addresses the development of the field focusing on the current opportunities and challenges within the African context. By using a wide variety of case studies that include Mozambique, Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Ivory Coast and Nigeria, the collection gives space to previously understudied regions of sub-Saharan Africa and challenges the over-reliance of western scholarship on political communication on the continent.



Conceptualising Political Communication in the Digital Age


Chapter 1. Key Developments in Political Communication in Africa

The major purpose of this study is to conceptualise political communications beyond assessing the role of mass media in election campaigns in Africa. We are concerned with how the media influences participation in political decision-making, production, publication, procession and distribution of media messages among interactive citizens, probing ways through which these mechanisms influence political processes in Africa. We seek to scrutinise, within a pietistic political context, the manipulation of mass media messages, information-censorship techniques among the political elites, the discursive political potential of social media platforms and the plethora of a politicised public opinion, ascertaining end-to-end analysis of the history, rituals, concepts and theoretical insights of political communication within an African context. For several reasons, some of which are conscientiously analysed here, the formal ending of colonialism has been marked by a debilitating delay towards democratisation, with journalists and media professionals seeking to maintain allegiance to the ruling party, which normally controls the media, in return for either political protection or journalistic privileges.
Bruce Mutsvairo, Beschara Karam

Chapter 2. Theorising Political Communication in Africa

Political communication, traditionally has its roots in an interdisciplinary framework, from cultural studies to political science and organisational communication. As such, it is diverse and straddles a ‘scientific’, quantitative, political organisation stream and a qualitative media stream. In addition to it theoretically combining these streams it is also made up of three main elements, theory, practice and research. Theorising political communication in Africa would have to address this burgeoning field, in part or in total. This chapter therefore argues that in order to do this the context must be taken into account, and the subject and application must be decolonised. A few ways are suggested on how to go about (re)theorising about political communication in the southern African situation, including looking at alternative political communication ‘spaces’.
Beschara Karam

Chapter 3. Split: Missing the Master Signifier in the Role of the Media in a Democracy: The Tension between the ANC’s President Jacob Zuma and the Media in South Africa

This is a work of political philosophy theory which deploys concepts pertaining to power and democracy to make sense of the relationship between the African National Congress (ANC) and the media in post-apartheid South Africa. The rationale for this research is to unravel the recent and current news media–state relationships, and examine how the media has split into two factions since President Zuma’s regime. Judith Butler’s theories in The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (1997) on how power works and how a subject becomes a subject is important for this chapter as it contains pertinent theoretical positions. These will be used to understand the attempts to subjugate critical media voices in South Africa through the idea of interpellation (hailing, naming, labeling, calling, shaming, as in the Frantz Fanon sense of ‘hey nigger’) and, even more importantly, to reflect on what reflexive turns were made towards the voices of power, and why. Butler’s concepts of ‘passionate attachments’, ‘subjectivisations’ as well as ‘resignifications’ will also be used. Political power is symbolic in nature, and through the roles and the masks, that is to say through the performative dimension of interpellations, ideological subjectivisation can take place. The methodology is, first and foremost embedded in the theoretical framework. The concepts will be explained and operationalised to shine light on the complex and contradictory nature of the ANC/democracy/media relationship and how attempts are made to pin down floating signifiers such as ‘democracy’ into a fixed meaning; tied to transformation and loyalty to the ANC. The empirical findings, through discourse material, and newspaper stories specifically on President Zuma’s corruption scandals, will be examined through the prism of the conceptual analytical tools above. These enable the drawing together of reflections, the identification of patterns or attachments, the splits and contradictions, and ambivalences on the part of both the media and the ANC. Critical discourse analysis has been used primarily to understand the ideological workings in the tensions between the ANC and the independent media.
Glenda Daniels

Chapter 4. Hashtags: #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall and the Temporalities of a Meme Event

In 2015, South Africa witnessed an eruption of struggles and protests that swept university campuses across the country. These protests were identified with a number of hashtags, among which the most prominent were #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall. These hashtags were in turn used to name the movements, led by university students and outsourced cleaning staff, that won a number of important victories and concessions. The present chapter defines the emergence, proliferation and memetic character of hashtags incorporating the injunction #MustFall as a ‘meme event’. It also explores the temporalities recalled by the conceptual metaphor of falling as an expression of political desire and, in particular, of the struggle for decolonisation.
Pier Paolo Frassinelli

Emergent Narratives: Complex and Contradictory Attitudes between Media and Politics


Chapter 5. Determinants of Participation in Political Communication in Uganda’s Broadcast Media: Implications for Women

What are the determinants of participation in political communication in Uganda? What are the implications for women’s participation in political communication? These questions are answered by examining public affairs programming in the country’s broadcast media. This study is influenced by the limited participation of women in political communication and was conducted by case study and content analysis designs. The findings suggest that, while determinants of participation were deemed gender neutral, men remained the key participants and women often reject opportunities to participate. Some determinants are enablers while others are dis-enablers. The determinants include the problem, politics, programme role, performance, producer and presenter role, profession, personality and policy. Women tend to reject opportunities to participate. Therefore, increased women’s participation in political communication will depend in part on their interest, willingness and commitment to participate, and favorable policies. There is a need to address the fear of participation among women.
Emilly Comfort Maractho

Chapter 6. Mapping Zambia’s Press Freedom Trajectory: A Longitudinal Study Examining Parliamentarians’ Perceptions of the Media

The political communication landscape in Zambia has experienced a difficult trajectory following the country’s return to democracy in 1991, after Kenneth Kaunda’s 27-year rule ended. This is evident when the role of the media in Zambia’s democratic dispensation is juxtaposed with the attitudes of parliamentarians towards the press. Pitts’s 1997 seminal study examined this phenomenon. He posited that although multi-party elections in 1991 produced a democratically elected government and brought increased freedoms for the media, the values shaped by the experiences of parliamentarians were also important to understanding the Zambian system of press freedom. The study concluded that Zambia’s leaders may have to experience intergenerational value changes to overcome the past if they are to view press freedom from a more libertarian perspective. To form a longitudinal base from which to analyse parliamentarians’ attitudes towards the press and how they have changed over time, longitudinal survey data from 1997 to 2015 has been collected. The questions addressed include: (1) Given Africa’s history of strict government regulation of the media prior to the democratisation tide of the early 1990s, what were parliamentarians’ perceptions of media regulation in Zambia from 1997 to 2015? (2) Has support for press freedom among parliamentarians, which is intrinsically linked to democracy, increased over the years? (3) What do parliamentarians think about news reporting by various media outlets in Zambia? Do they consider the reports of television, newspapers, radio and online providers to be fair and accurate? (4) Are parliamentarians familiar with online news sources and what are their perceptions of them? How do emerging media trends assist in contextualising political communication in Zambia. Using these questions as the baseline, the purpose of this chapter is to project and examine trends.
Twange Kasoma, Gregory Pitts

Chapter 7. At War: Government and Media Tensions in Contemporary Kenya and the Implications for Public Interest

Traditionally, tension and scepticism define the relationship between the state and media. While media outlets exist to serve public interest by interposing themselves between political authority and the citizenry, this can be compromised when the state seeks to exert control over the press. Since President Uhuru Kenyatta ascended to power in 2013 in Kenya, his Jubilee administration has had a fractious relationship with Kenya’s media, oscillating from mutual suspicion to openly flirty to manifestly frosty. While on one hand the government has been aggressively courting the media and journalists to drive its agenda, public anti-media rhetoric, ill-intentioned laws, threats and intimidation of journalists and, denial of advertising revenue have become all too common in Kenya. Soft censorship approaches have been used to reward favorable coverage and soften media criticism of government, undermining the media’s capacity to serve public interest.
Sam Kamau

Chapter 8. Communicating Politics and National Identity: The Case of Mozambique

This chapter questions if and how political communication is being used as a tool to build national identity in Mozambique, a country deeply divided in socio-economic, cultural and political terms. Focusing on Armando Guebuza’s Open and Inclusive Presidencies, it aims to present a picture of Mozambique regarding the following entwined issues: (1) the political system, including the electoral system and political participation trends; (2) the media system, including the media landscape and media ownership; and (3) the government communication structure and strategies.
Gisela Gonçalves, Stélia Neta João Mboene Mapanzene

Online and Offline Mapping of Interactive Politics and Media


Chapter 9. Digital Media and Political Citizenship: Facebook and Politics in South Africa

The role of the Internet in positively affecting political participation has been widely debated in scholarly research. The growth of participatory web technologies has been accompanied by a rise in online activism, raising new possibilities for online political discussion and debate between politicians and citizens. This highlights the potential role of the Internet to contribute towards public sphere debates. While challenges related to the digital divide mean that information and communications technology (ICT) and Internet penetration is still comparatively low in Africa, the rise of mobile telephony has created new possibilities for online access and digital activism. Social media in particular have been highlighted for their potential role in creating networked publics, providing citizens with political information and creating spaces for debate and deliberative dialogue. Facebook has been listed as one social networking site that can improve citizens’ political knowledge, build and maintain social capital, and activate online political discussions, which can lead to political engagement. This chapter examines the social media presence of South African politicians and political parties on Facebook, exploring their degree of engagement in political conversations with citizens. Using social network analysis methods and tools, Facebook conversations are mapped, paying close attention to strategic narratives, citizens’ participatory repertoires and the role of social media in the construction of various architectures of citizenship. The chapter draws on quantitative digital methods tools to conduct a Facebook page-like network analysis, together with qualitative discourse analysis of page content. Theoretically, the chapter draws on theories of listening in relation to deliberative democracy, following Susan Bickford’s notion of pathbuilding, through explorations of speaking and listening, voice and hearing, and interpretation/deconstruction. The chapter also explores the nature and role of emotion in social media political dialogue, to understand how citizens make sense of the political landscape.
Tanja Bosch

Chapter 10. Framing the Debate on ‘Kagame III’ in Rwanda’s Print Media

The debate about extending the presidential term limits in Rwanda first emerged in 2015. A common public perception today, as framed in the media and official political communication narratives, endorses President Kagame with the competence to protect the country and provide order to the country’s way of life. However, critical perspectives have dismissed these narratives as the ‘rhetorical politics of persuasion’. A discourse analysis of selected texts in the New Times identifies discourse frames that are seeking to shape people’s attitudes and choices in favour of the third term. The motives that the newspaper has for excluding opposing views and allotting excessive space to the ‘politically correct’ elite are not clear, but what is evident is that the majority of Rwandans are satisfied with Kagame’s reign.
Margaret Jjuuko

Chapter 11. ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’: Exploring Ethno-Regional Contestations in Nigerian Political Communication

The discussion in this chapter is premised on the understanding that political communication has a significant effect on democratic politics. In a democratic society, the press plays a pivotal role that requires it to defend and protect democracy by facilitating political participation through its capacity to empower citizens with information that they need to make informed political decisions. The chapter develops an argument by examining how two national newspapers, The Guardian and the Daily Trust, covered the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria, and explores how the construction and processing of messages could have evoked ethno-nationalistic contestations in Nigerian politics and had a potential impact on the political process. Given that ethnic consciousness is at the core of Nigerian politics and serves as an important mobilisation tool, analysing press coverage of an election provides critical insight into the nature of political communication in the country.
Mercy Ette

Chapter 12. Romancing the Media: A Critical Interrogation of Political Communication in Presidential Elections in Kenya

This chapter examines the political use of the media—both traditional and new, including social media—in Kenya’s political and democratic processes. It argues that political use of the media is premised on the fact that they provide information, platforms and forums for information sharing, debate and analysis, and space and tools for political engagement, networking, mobilisation and propaganda. However, a critical interrogation of media use reveals that access and use is skewed towards the political elite and their issues. Accordingly, the ordinary populace is at the receiving end of political communication but is not actively involved in creating and disseminating political messages. Yet, despite the growing appropriation and use of media for political communication and propaganda, there is no guarantee that media will help generate the votes needed to win political contests and presidential elections.
George Nyabuga, Wilson Ugangu

Chapter 13. Fake It till You Make It: The Role, Impact and Consequences of Fake News

This chapter deals with the emergence and proliferation of fake news. The phenomenon of fake news, albeit far from new, can hardly have escaped anyone. In the last year, fake news has been seen to have influenced the US elections and the British Brexit vote, and locally in South Africa Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, newspaper editors and journalists have become targets for fake news peddlers. In other instances breaking news on social media has turned out to be false and based on hoaxes and hearsay. This chapter addresses questions concerning the manifestations of fake news (globally as well as nationally), who drives these supposed news stories, what purpose or agendas some of the examples of fake news serve and what the grey zones are between the real and the fake, facts and perception. And, importantly, the chapter asks what can be done about the phenomenon.
Ylva Rodny-Gumede

Local Politics in a Globalised World


Chapter 14. Political Communication in a Regressed Democracy: An Analysis of Political Party Advertising Campaigns in Zimbabwe’s 2008 Harmonised Election

Tendai Chari employs the functional analysis approach to examine adverts for Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the harmonised 2008 election campaigns. Six purposively selected political adverts published in the state-owned newspaper, The Herald are discursively analysed. Chari argues that the two rival political parties employed multi-dimensional functions of political advertising, encompassing acclaim, attack and to a lesser extent, defensive advertising to appeal for votes from the electorate. Chari further argues that the parties mobilised different discursive strategies to appeal to the electorate, with the incumbent party pleading for continuity while the opposition advocated change. He concludes that the preponderance of negativity in the campaign reflects the convergence of global and local forces in a regressed democracy.
Tendai Chari

Chapter 15. Interviews with Ivorian Political Journalists: Examining the Political Role of Local and Foreign Journalists during Ivory Coast’s 2010–2011 Electoral Crisis

Few studies written in English have problematised how French and US media cover the political conflict in the former colonies of France in West Africa, such as Gabon, Senegal, Burkina Faso‚ or Ivory Coast. This chapter’s interviews with foreign and local Ivorian journalists help investigate how France and the US media imperialism and coloniality of power continue to influence international media coverage of West Africa. Based on field interviews conducted in 2016 in Abidjan with Ivorian journalists and French foreign correspondents, this book chapter argues the international and French media were influenced by France’s military power and now-president Alassane Ouattara’s friendly relations with France to write stories in favour of Ouattara, thus playing a powerful and decisive role in the international news about the conflict.
Jeslyn Lemke

Chapter 16. Political Communication in Ghana: Exploring Evolving Trends and Their Implications for National Development

Since 1992 the mass media in Ghana has contributed towards electoral democracy. It has served as a conduit for political debates and for political education of the citizenry. This chapter explores evolving trends in issue-based politics and their implications for national development within a complex socio-political context, including poverty, illiteracy, intemperate political language and ‘winner–takes-all’ politicking, in which the contributions of stakeholders are required to overcome obstacles. The chapter discusses the importance of nurturing conducive political culture. It views political tolerance as fundamental in communication processes within a democratic dispensation. The argument is that in a polarised political climate building synergies among stakeholders is paramount, because this can engender democratic participant communication processes to promote public interest and national unity.
Africanus Lewil Diedong


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