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Dr Anthony Gunde

Home country: Malawi

Year of enrolment: 2013

Graduation date: December 2015

Department: Journalism

Supervisor: Prof Simphiwe Sesanti

Dissertation title: The political role of the media in the democratisation of Malawi: The case of the Weekend Nation from 2002 to 2012
This study investigated the political role of the Weekend Nation newspaper in the democratisation of Malawi between 2002 and 2012 within the context of its foundational and ownership structures by a politician. Bearing in mind that the newspaper was founded by a politician belonging to the first democratically elected ruling party, the United Democratic Front (UDF), this research sought to examine the impact of media ownership on the political role of the Weekend Nation’s journalistic practices in Malawi’s democratisation. Between 2002 and 2012, Malawi was governed by three presidents – Bakili Muluzi of the UDF from 1994 to 2004, Bingu wa Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from 2004 to 2012, and Joyce Banda of the People’s Party (PP) from 2012 to 2014 – all of whom were hostile to the Weekend Nation. Taking into cognisance the ownership of the Weekend Nation by a politician, the critical political economy theory of the media was deemed to be the most appropriate theoretical framework for this study. In media research, the critical political economy theory asserts that owners are able to regulate the output of the media institution either by intervening in the day-to-day operations, or by establishing general goals and understandings and appointing managerial and editorial staff to implement them within the constraints set by the overall allocation of resources. The study employed a qualitative research methodology, in particular in-depth interviews and qualitative content analysis. Research findings indicate that overall, the political ownership of the newspaper had no direct bearing on the journalists’ political role in the enhancement of democracy and good governance in Malawi. It established that despite the ownership of the Weekend Nation belonging to a prominent and influential politician, the editorial independence was not compromised. Contrary to general expectations, this study established that the Weekend Nation in Malawi, was critical to the political elite in an indiscriminate manner. Although it was not the focus of this study, the research also showed that market forces, in line with the stance taken by the critical political economy theory, had some impact on the Weekend Nation’s editorial independence. The quest for more advertising revenue, to an extent, undermined the struggle for complete editorial independence
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