How Good is the South African Media for Democracy?

Mapping the South African Public Sphere after Apartheid *

In: African and Asian Studies


This article argues that media are not merely conduits for the government, political parties or citizens in post-apartheid South Africa, but have emerged as autonomous power centres in competition with other power centres. The transformation of the South African media since the demise of apartheid has taken the form of significant changes in the media's environment. There is now freedom to criticise the government, unprecedented access to state-held information, and the state's monopoly over broadcasting and diversification of commercial print media has been broken. Yet these developments have not in themselves had very many positive effects on democratic participation, and the media have not engaged in an effective critique of the country's continuing high levels of social and economic inequality or the structural constraints on the democratisation of its political life. Jacob examines the nature of South Africa's political transition from white-domination and apartheid regime to negotiated and "mediated democracy" that has adopted neoliberal economic policies to ascertain the reasons for this seemingly contradictory outcome.

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