Media framing: how the South African media framed the country’s participation in the United Nations Security Council between 2019 and 2020
This study investigates how the South African media framed the country's participation in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), during its third term, as a non-permanent member from 2019 to 2020. There was substantial negative media coverage by both the South African and international media on the country’s human rights stance in the UNSC, during its first term as the UNSC non-permanent member from 2007 to 2008 under the administration of former President Thabo Mbeki, and again during the second term from 2011 to 2012 under former President Jacob Zuma’s administration. South Africa was accused of discarding the human rights pillar of its foreign policy when it voted against the resolutions that condemned human rights violations in Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Syria. When Cyril Ramaphosa took over as head of the ANC in 2018, he stated his intention to realign the country’s foreign policy agenda with the government’s commitment to human rights. However, no study has yet assessed the extent to which the media coverage of the government’s performance at the UNSC under Ramaphosa’s presidency was any different to the coverage of its first two terms at the UNSC. This study used media framing analysis in eighty-two articles that were identified in seven online South African publications about the country's participation in the UNSC from June 2018 to December 2020. Self-structured open-ended interviews with three online publications were also conducted. The study finds that the four dominant themes identified in the media coverage – peace and security, human rights, African agenda, UNSC reforms and multilateralism – aligned with the government’s priorities. It further goes on to suggest that the media framed South Africa’s performance sympathetically, rather than contesting its public diplomacy narrative. It did this through relying on government sources in news articles, and by there being little contestation in perspectives among frame sponsors. There was no overall evaluation from the media on whether the government had recommitted to its human rights pillar of it foreign policy as it had stated it would do at the start of the Ramaphosa presidency. This study therefore tentatively suggests that overall, the media reporting on South Africa’s performance in the UNSC was sympathetic towards the government.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts to the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, 2023
Media framing, United Nations Security Council