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The media and social construction of reality : a case study of the charges against Jacob Zuma.

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This dissertation investigates print media reporting on the Jacob Zuma case to establish levels of bias, if any, in reporting such a high profile political case. The study is premised on the concept of social construction of reality where values and preferences could colour the perception of facts. The use of both ethnographic and quantitative content analysis allowed for the systematic investigation of the content of newspaper articles while the use of discourse analysis highlighted the importance of language use in the social construction of reality. Under apartheid the media was critical of government both ideologically and morally. The print media had a liberal democratic ethos and generally defended the underdog. This has been carried over into the democratic dispensation. The implication of the Deputy President of the country and the brother of the Secretary of the Arms Procurement Committee in corruption hit the nerve of the press, hence the vigilant reporting on the case. The media generally painted a picture of Zuma as a corrupt man not fit to be in public office with his implication in corruption being perceived as a threat to the country's democratic ethos. The view was that this undermined democratic principles of equality, justice and accountability. On the contrary COSATU, SACP and the ANCYL mobilised the public in support of Zuma arguing that the charges were instituted by vindictive opponents who wanted to destroy Zuma's political career. The NPA's conduct during the case including its failure to provide Zuma with a final indictment in over a year arguing that it was not prepared to continue with the case thus seeking a postponement - gave credence to the conspiracy theorists. At the end, the NP A conceded the conspiracy theory on the representation made by Zuma following leaked conversations between National Prosecuting Authority (NP A) boss Leonard McCarthy and former National Director of Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka. This in essence brought a non-conclusive end to the saga as the allegations and the defence therefore could not be tested in a court of law.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2011.


Newspapers--South Africa--Objectivity., Press and politics--South Africa., South Africa--Politics and government., Theses--Social policy.