The network society, power and the print media in post-apartheid South Africa

Although post-apartheid South Africa has witnessed constraints on press freedom by the ruling party, there is limited understanding of how media discourse is contested and constructed by diverse social actors. This article is interested in the extent to which various social actors in the Durban network society, such as civil society, corporations and the state, shape public information and perception in their own interests regarding environmental discourse. Empirical evidence presents viewpoints from key social actors and a local case study. The article compares the urban regional and case study analyses, and highlights the complex relationship between various social actors and the numerous avenues used to shape public information and perception. While corporations causing pollution mainly serve as barriers to civil society using the media effectively to highlight environmental injustices (e.g. through corporate media sponsorships, media intimidation), this is further complicated by limitations within civil society and media outlets to influence media discourse (e.g. limited financial/human resources, individualized leadership, media remuneration issues). Alongside these limitations, and the power of government and corporations, the influence of media discourse and perceptions regarding industrial risks are also dependent upon successful horizontal and vertical networking between civil society actors.

Leonard, L. (2014) The network society, power and the print media in post-apartheid South Africa: the case of media contestation in Durban for environmental justice, Media, Culture and Society, Volume 36(7), 966-981.

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