HUMA Book Lunch Series

Author: Herman Wasserman (University of Cape Town, South Africa)

Abstract: This book discusses the relationship between media, conflict, and democratization in Africa from the perspective of media ethics. Despite the commonly held view that conflict is a destructive political force that can destabilize democracies, the argument in this book is that while many conflicts can indeed become violent and destructive, they can also be managed in a way that can render them productive and communicative to democracy. Drawing on theoretical insights from the fields of journalism studies, political studies, and cultural studies, the book discusses the ethics of conflict coverage and proposes a normative model for covering conflict and democratization. The book argues for an “ethics of listening” that would enable the media to help de-escalate violent conflict and contribute to the deepening of an agonistic democratic culture in contexts of high inequality, ethnic and racial polarisation, and uneven access to media. This argument is illustrated by examples drawn from recent events in African democracies such as student protests, community activism, struggles for resources, and social media conflicts. The book also scrutinises the media’s ethical roles and responsibilities in African societies by considering questions regarding journalistic professionalism, ethical codes, and regulation in the context of rising misinformation. The book provides a critical African perspective on global debates about media, politics, and democracy and the media’s ethical commitments in contexts of conflict. See book (Oxford University Press) 

Herman Wasserman

About the author: Herman Wasserman is a Professor of Media Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is an award-winning researcher on media, democracy and disinformation in Africa. His latest book, The Ethics of Engagement: Media, Conflict and Democracy in Africa (2020) is published by Oxford University Press. He is Editor-in-Chief of the academic journals The Annals of the International Communication Association and African Journalism Studies. He is a Fellow of the International Communication Association and a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa.