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Media representations of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and their commitment to reconciliation.

Verdoolaege, Annelies
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Journal of African Cultural Studies, Volume 17, Number 2. P.181

The success and prestige of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
of South Africa can largely be attributed to the media attention. The extensive media coverage has been very positive for the TRC, especially with regard to the aspect of transparency. However, a drawback of such an elaborate media representation is that the media often tend to cover a phenomenon in a biased way. By studying the linguistic and visual aspects of the media discourse that represented the TRC, we will try to find out in which ways also this discourse was ideologically coloured. A brief overview of the relation between power and media discourse will be given, focusing mainly on theories from the domain of Critical Discourse Analysis. A number of important aspects inherent to the TRC media representation will be highlighted, distinguishing three features that seem to indicate an uncritical
approach of some media towards the Commission. These features will then be applied to one particular TV programme that covered the TRC. The analysis will reveal that, although this programme tried to stand as an example of independent and critical journalism, it could not avoid the pitfalls of partiality and sensationalism. We will argue that there seems to be a link between the reconciliation-oriented
discourse of this TV programme and the Commission’s objective of promoting national reconciliation. Since this programme was quite successful in South Africa, we suggest that its discourse had a considerable amount of impact on society. Therefore, this television programme could be seen as one of the factors contributing to both the success of the TRC, and the reigning atmosphere of reconciliation
in present day South Africa. (Excerpt)


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