COVID-19 and the Media in Sub-Saharan Africa: Media viability, Framing and Health Communication

By Jimmy Siyasa

This book, published by Emerald Publishing House, is an amalgam of research works seeking the nexus between Media and COVID-19 from a diversity of perspectives, though with a strict focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 led to a rise in research studies seeking to understand the nexus between Media and COVID-19. However, little attention had been paid to this subject in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa. This book is an attempt to address this research gap by providing a comprehensive overview of the role of media in the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. It contains contributions from leading scholars in the field, with many of them active academics and industry players at Uganda Christian University (UCU), who offer a variety of perspectives on the topic.

The book is edited by Dr. Carol Azungi Dralega of NLA University College, Norway, and Dr. Angella Napakol of Uganda Christian University, Uganda.

ABRIDGED FOREWORD

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COVID-19 and the Media in Sub-Saharan Africa is among the first books uniting scholars to examine media viability, framing and health crisis communication connected to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. The findings may be applicable also to other global crises, both in and outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, and may help practitioners and scholars alike to understand the complexity of preconditions and structures of media ecologies.

The highly diverse cases are characterized by the authors’ first-hand knowledge of the media in the Sub-Saharan African context. Focusing on newly collected cases from a broad number of countries, the authors study whether the pandemic changed the conditions for media viability, framing, and outreach. It also covers concrete examples of how the specific health communication led to changes in social behaviour and mental health. Last, but not least, it provides gendered and marginalisation lenses to understand barriers for media users and media producers.

The highly diverse cases are characterized by the authors’ first-hand knowledge of the media in the Sub-Saharan African context. Focusing on newly collected cases from a broad number of countries, the authors study whether the pandemic changed the conditions for media viability, framing, and outreach. It also covers concrete examples of how the specific health communication led to changes in social behaviour and mental health. Last, but not least, it provides gendered and marginalisation lenses to understand barriers for media users and media producers.

Throughout the pandemic, publishing houses in Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world faced severe obstacles. In different ways, the pandemic influenced the room for manoeuvres. Different conditions were involved and influenced whether media content was published, and with what quality. Three factors were key: political conditions, financial resources, and the level of journalistic expertise. If there was political room for manoeuvre, if there were sufficient financial resources, and if there was a high level of competence, the media was often found to disseminate independent, critical, and research-based information, monitor public institutions, and provide a platform for public debate and dialogue.

The authors connect these factors with media viability and media framing. Based on empirical data and theoretical perspectives, they challenge traditional understandings of media. To understand factors preventing and promoting critical and fact-based media during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers looked at both the media’s finances and priorities, the individual journalist’s competence and resilience, and the political influence that publishing houses and journalists were exposed to through propaganda and restrictions on media freedom.

Margot Skarpeteig Program Manager– Human Rights, Inclusion and Empowerment, the World Bank