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Beyond watchdog journalism: Media and Social Accountability – Research Report

Vanessa Malila

Publisher: Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM)

April 2018

The following report is an exploratory case study analysis of social accountability monitoring of the Eastern Cape Department of Education by the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) and mainstream media in the Eastern Cape. It provides in-depth analysis of the education programme’s work within PSAM and a study of newspaper coverage of education in the Eastern Cape. The argument made herein, is that for either civil society or the media to be effective in holding duty bearers to account, and to equip citizens to hold public officials to account, they have to work collaboratively in their efforts. What is required is a shift in the assumption that simply reporting on or highlighting events of maladministration or mismanagement of public resources is sufficient. Highlighting poor resource management is necessary but not sufficient to equate to social accountability. The current media coverage, while extensive and voluminous, does not provide citizens with the contextual knowledge they need to effectively hold duty bearers to account for poor service delivery. Rather, as a result of the formulaic reporting style, corruption and maladministration are further normalised. Fostering a more strategic, conscious and direct relationship between civil society and the media, will ensure a symbiotic relationship of effective society accountability resulting in better public resource management.

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