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Digital News Report 2019 - South Africa Supplementary Report

This stand-alone report on South Africa supplements the main Digital News Report and aims to go into greater detail with the data in ways that we hope will be useful for discussions of news and media as well as decision making in South Africa, where national elections have just taken place in May and a new government is being formed.

The media context for this period of political change, our research suggests, is one of eroding trust in news and where 70% of our South African respondents say they struggle to separate fact from fiction online. More encouragingly, we are also seeing important investigative reporting, innovative journalism, and journalistic collaborations, including ways in which some South African journalists and media organisations are fighting back against corruption, state capture, and various forms of misinformation.

Despite numerous problems with outlets being captured by powerful political and/or commercial interests, embarrassing lapses in editorial oversight, and instances where proprietors have used news media to attack independent journalists, a majority of our respondents still say that South African media help hold politicians and businesses to account. While limited in its focus to English-language South African internet users, and thus not representative of South Africa more widely, we hope this report can be a first step towards contributing empirical insights on news and media habits. As audiences turn to digital media, where advertising tends to go to international technology companies rather than local publishers, intensifying the pressures on existing business models, this is becoming especially important.