Politicians often participate in getting the public's attention, which is usually achieved using the power of the press. However, Paul and Elder (2004:2) argue that there seems to be more distorted information provided by state-owned media than by private sectors; why is this the case? The distorted views often offer a perspective that may favour the government regardless of mistreating the citizens.

It can be argued that the government aims to control the media to present a positive image of internal affairs to the international community (Shabir, 2016). However, this is often not the case. For example, South African news has often given distorted views. This is because the government has influenced the media to some extent, specifically the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC) news, a free service the state provides to the general public, although others pay for it through TV licenses.

The Former Chief Operations Officer of the South African Broadcasting Commission, Hlaudi Motsoeneng proposed banning the broadcast of protests on television for the general public (Fokane, 2017:1). He argued that they promote more violent demonstrations and give a bad image to the international community. However, this policy and censorship were against the charter of the same broadcasting commission – to provide freedom of expression and independence.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng was a full member of the African National Congress (ANC) ruling party. There have been debates from opposition parties about the high coverage only given to the ruling party during election season. According to Occiti (1999:18), there have been similar cases in Africa. For example, Malawi implemented political centralization of media to avoid criticism of government policies. The Ghana government bought the media company “Daily and Sunday Graphic” to turn it into a state spokesperson (official mouthpiece).

Media and politics relations

Lozanov and Spassov (2011:4) state that media and politics are in an intertwined relationship. Political parties or agents often turn to the general public to find support for their ideas by winning the public trust through media. On the other hand, the media informs the public about issues surrounding politics. It indicates that these two may benefit from each other to some extent.

It is vital to have free and independent media, as stipulated by Lozanov and Spassov (2011:4). This is because the press shape most public opinions, even the level of citizens' participation in politics. The press often becomes biased when politicians try to manipulate them.

The relationship between media and politics has existed for years. The African newspapers have provided the forum for the “freedom struggle” between the Africans and colonial supremacies. There have been papers such as Liberia Herald fighting against European oppression. However, some African-owned papers started a coalition between political advocacy and entrepreneurship. The first prime Minister of Nigeria, Azikwe Nnamdi, had ten ownership of newspapers. While his advisor, Awolowo owned about fourteen media companies. Their party led the polls within Nigeria (Ocitti, 1999:15). This clearly illustrates the history of combining media with politics. The ones with more influence in media often gain popularity quickly.

Many governments in Africa have taken extreme measures to control the media. There are many cases whereby “independent media houses” are centralized and taken by governments or ruling parties. For example, Occiti (1999:16) asserts that Central African Mail, which was run by the private sector, was acquired by the government and renamed Zambian Mail. Furthermore, the government bought Times of Zambia to control information being shared with the general public. This was a contradiction to democracy and access to information, as the ruling government manipulates what is communicated to the public, which works in favour even in years to come.

Although the Zambia government was strict with media control, it was not as bad as in Ethiopia and DR Congo. In these two states, critical journalism of the government is close to not existing. There have been arrests of journalists since the 1990s, and the government prosecuted several journalists regarding ethnicity and national security publications. The number of disappearances of journalists has increased since 1996 in Ethiopia and DR Congo. (Occiti, 1999:20). The restrictions of media house in DR Congo and Ethiopia have not helped with lessening violence, especially in Congo. DR Congo saw even high levels of rebels emerging to the extent of other African states intervening; South Africa intervened in DR Congo through the Force Intervention Brigade. There are other cases whereby the government only worsened conflicts, as in the case of Rwanda

Did the media influence the Rwanda Genocide? The factors leading to a violent clash

Stromberg (2015:198) argue that, to some extent, media played a role in Rwanda's genocide of about five hundred thousand to one million civilians. This reduced the population of Tsutsi by 75%. This was caused by a radio broadcast that influenced the killings of the Tsutsi minority. Lower and Hauschidt (2014:1) assert that during the colonial periods, Tsutsi Monarchy cooperated with Europeans to rule Rwanda. In the years after independence, several Tsutsis fled away from the violence taken upon them. It was then they formed Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA).

The Rwandan Patriotic Army invaded Rwanda through the northern side, leading to mass propaganda through Rwandan media by stating the differences between Tsutsi and Hutu. The media was inflicting fear on the general public. The politics played at hand here was that Hutus would be the victims of oppression if Tsutsis were to take power in Rwanda. What followed was staged attacks on the Kigali area, supposedly by “Tsutsi” in October 1990. (Lower and Hauschildt, 2014:2)

In Rwanda's case, over-control of media by some African governments illustrates a problem. According to Lower and Hauschildt, 2014:3), what happened in Rwanda was war propaganda. This news was distorted, fabricated and manipulated to further political agendas. The government pushed the perspective that the invasion of RPF was to slaughter the Hutus. One can conclude that the centralization of media in Rwanda was why the general public believed what was being shared with them, as there were no alternative big media houses. For instance, although the government influences the South African Broadcasting Commission, there are various media houses in South Africa, and the public does not only receive news from one media outlet.

Media and state capture: the case of South Africa

The theory of Economic regulation, which is referred to as capture theory, is illustrated by Stigler (1971) when he argues that it makes it difficult for a state to implement socioeconomic development programmes. On the other hand, Hellman (2000) asserts that the state capture of institutions of a state and policy formulations are the main problems to a progressive society. The theory of state capture has been argued throughout different schools. According to Dassah (2017), state capture emerged at the dawn of the new millennium but gained popularity in South African politics through the media in 2016. The former Deputy Minister of Finance, Jonas Mcebisi, released information about the Gupta Brothers on television and maintained that they are not friends with the former President of South Africa but business partners with his son (still going to court even today). Further on, Mcebisi argued that they offered him a job in the cabinet. This became a new era of media in South African politics because the general public became more interested in the state capture report, and a commission was sat to investigate and ask politicians involved questions live on tv.

The South African media houses etv news, eNCA (international), and eReality oversaw some of the country's issues. There have been instances where the media exposed Former South African President Jacob Zuma spending about $18 million of public money for personal use on his house. This could have gone unchecked without the interference of media and linked information. (Gumede, 2014:8)

The ongoing toxic affair between politicians and media in Africa remains problematic

The African government's media control has proved futile as protests continue to emerge against the same state trying to fabricate and manipulate information. In addition, there has been an alarming rate of violence erupting in countries such as DR Congo, regardless of the strict censorship of news by the government.

The Rwanda government, to some extent, caused the killings of Tsutsis by spreading propaganda against the Hutus.

South African Broadcasting Commission also tried to implement the same policies as other African states, but this failed drastically as the general public began to take the battle to the streets (protests).

Based on the problematic cases in Africa regarding the media’s control, it is clear that governments should stop overcontrolling news. Instead, the press should remain independent.


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