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Mass Media and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa

Krabill, Ron
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) Media, Culture & Society. 23: 567-585.

South African mass media have served as both essential actors in the TRC drama, as well as the stage on which much of the drama has been performed. This article will avoid the temptation to join the extremely important normative debate over whether the TRC process as a whole was the best approach to transitional justice in South Africa; likewise, I will not attempt to determine whether the TRC process has been successful, in any of the myriad ways people have defined success in this
situation. Rather, this article will tease out the relationship between the mass media and the TRC, focusing primarily but not exclusively on broadcast media.
I draw on two analytic frameworks from the field of media studies: Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz’s media events (1992) and Graham Hayman and Ruth Tomaselli’s levels of ideology in broadcasting (1987). I also pay particular attention to the TRC’s institutional hearings on the media. These
hearings brought several of the dynamics in the relationship between mass media and the TRC to the fore, and thus provide a helpful entry point into understanding the relationship’s complexity. These explorations will help us to conceptualize how and why mass media have played their unique and crucial role in South Africa, both under apartheid and throughout the TRC process. Such a conceptualization will better equip us to analyze mass media’s future roles in South Africa. (excerpt)


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