07 May, 2013

The News About Southern Africa: Jornal de Angola

by Virgil Hawkins

My previous post looked at how much coverage South Africa's Sowetan Newspaper devoted to the region in which it is situated (southern Africa), and the results did not appear promising. With the exception of Zimbabwe, very little of the goings on in southern Africa were being reported in that newspaper.

This post takes a brief look at the international coverage in Jornal de Angola, Angola's only daily newspaper. While South Africa and Angola are situated in the same region, given different geopolitical environments and historical and linguistic backgrounds, we can expect some differences in the coverage. We might expect, for example, that in the Angolan press, Portuguese speaking countries would attract a significant amount of coverage. We might also expect that the 'gravitational' pull of South Africa, the region's powerhouse, would translate into a relatively heavy amount of coverage of that country.

The period covered was a short one – between November 2012 and January 2013, and as such, although the results should give us some clues as to the paper's perceptions of newsworthiness, they should also be taken with a grain of salt.

Overall, 42 percent of the international news stories in the period covered focused on the African continent, which was more than double the percentage of stories devoted to any other continent (Americas: 19 percent, Europe: 15 percent). This would appear to confirm a firm grounding of interests within the African continent – something that is not necessarily the norm in many other African media publications.

But the more immediate region surrounding Angola seemed to be less of a priority. Coverage of southern African countries (Southern African Development Community – SADC – members) made up only 8 percent of the international news. The bulk of this coverage was on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – quite understandably, given the major escalation in the conflict in that country. Zimbabwe, which was of such critical interest to the Sowetan newspaper in South Africa, did not form the basis for a single article in Jornal de Angola.

One trend that seemed to match that of the Sowetan newspaper, was the lack of interest in SADC (the organization and its activities). Only one article discussed SADC, focusing on its handling of crises in the DRC, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, despite the fact that over the period covered, the organization held two extraordinary summits, primarily in response to these same crises.

The results also showed that historical and linguistic ties certainly played a role in the coverage, although perhaps not as much as might have been expected. Portuguese-speaking countries accounted for 9 percent of the total international coverage, with a surprisingly high focus on the tiny island state of São Tomé and Príncipe. Attracting 15 articles it, together with Venezuela, was the fourth most covered country, behind the USA (38 articles), Egypt (28 articles), and the DRC (17 articles). Another Portuguese-speaking country of interest to Angola, Guinea Bissau, also attracted 13 articles, the same number as that for Syria. South Africa was the object of 11 articles.

On the whole, Jornal de Angola, like the Sowetan in South Africa, appeared to show relatively little interest (with few exceptions) in the goings on in the southern Africa region and its regional body, SADC. While the marginalization of SADC may reflect low expectations as to the current role of the organization in the region, the low level of coverage of the region and its countries should be seen as problematic – as one of the obstacles to regional understanding, interaction and cooperation.

(Many thanks to Rui Faro Saraiva, for his help in data collection)

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