The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the body responsible for running South Africa’s elections, are to consider inviting and accrediting bloggers alongside media. I was invited to present a paper (pdf) on new media at the IEC conference called “The Role of the Media in Promoting Electoral Democracy” at the Reserve Bank in Pretoria on Thursday. It was a conference attended by media, politicians and IEC officials.

At the end of my presentation I urged the IEC to extend an invitation to local and international bloggers to cover the upcoming elections alongside journalists. My proposal received a positive response from Dr Brigalia Bam (Chairperson) and Ms Pansy Tlakula (Chief Electoral Officer). At the end Ms Thoko Mpumlwana (Deputy Chairperson) announced to the audience that the IEC was committed to looking into the idea of inviting bloggers to cover the elections and seemed enthusiastic about it.

This is a breakthrough and I applaud the IEC for its open-mindedness and commitment to democracy. In many ways the internet is the ultimate democratic medium. The web has made media and publishing more democratic and ensured a plurality and diversity of views. At the core of this phenomenon is the fact internet has made it easy and cheap to create and distribute content — and that is a profoundly democratic thing. This is now being extended by the mobile web, which is making the internet even more accessible.

I also spoke about how both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are campaigning online heavily and using social media. These savvy politicians have set up their own Facebook groups and are represented on a host of social media sites, including Twitter, Flickr, Linkin, and YouTube. In fact, Obama has racked up more than 11-million You Tube views and is by far the most popular candidate online. The battle for the hearts and minds of the electorate is being waged as much online as it is in the real world.

Read full paper, “New media and democracy” (pdf)

7 Responses to “Breaking news: Electoral authority to consider inviting bloggers to cover elections”
  1. […] use of the web. In an interview with Sapa on IOL my colleagues didn’t share my optimism. In a Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) presentation in Pretoria at the beginning of the year, I urged political parties to take online seriously and […]

  2. While you’re talking to the IEC, please ask them to have online voting as an option next year.

  3. @Ismail — I had a look at RRW (my favourite site) and they have some good stuff on the electons.

    @DD — thanks dave… it shouldnt make a difference either as HTML or PDF — Google should still find it?

    @Lauren — hmmm a bit elitest there hey? Obviously it can’t be a free for all and it can’t just be anyone or everyone. I would guess that bloggers who cover politics with substantial audiences deserve to be accredited just as much as journalists. What you are describing is a solvable logistical issue, not an issue of why bloggers should or shouldn’t be accredited to cover elections. Why did it work in the US?

  4. Im not sure this is a great idea, unless it is controlled somehow. I know one of the country’s best sporting photographers is leaving SA, saying that the game has changed. You now get queues of people wielding cameras and claiming to be journalists and all manner of online multi-media gurus. It just makes the job that much more difficult for the real journos to get their story, when you’ve got others messing about for some two-bit website.

  5. Matt, that .pdf document is awesome. I think you should publish it as a blog-post so it can be searched and referenced online.

  6. Check out this post from RRW on how the the candidates @ US elections are using Social Media….

    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/twitter_to_hillary_youre_doing_it_wrong.php

  7. Great Idea!

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