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The dilemma of ethical political communication in South African elections

By L.M. Fourie and J.D. Froneman

Abstract

In view of South Africa’s diversity, its unresolved issues of race and complex social legacy, election campaigns are highly sensitive. From a Reformed Christian perspective, a critical question is: To what extent is the political culture infused by the Biblical imperatives of brotherly love, respect and compassion? Given the growing use of adversarial political advertising the following two questions arise and are specifically addressed:<br /><br /> • Could it realistically be expected of Christian political communicators in a secular country such as South Africa to communicate with full respect to people at all times, or should they be excused if they try to win at all costs? and<br /><br /> • How do political theorists view the issue?<br /><br /> In answering these questions, social responsibility and the need for social harmony as precondition for free and fair political activities, as well as a Biblical perspective on communication are addressed. In view of these theoretical points of departure the role of emotional messages is discussed and evaluated.<br /><br /> It is argued that all advertising, but specifically political advertising in an emotionally charged atmosphere such as an election campaign, could have a direct negative impact on social harmony and is therefore Biblically unacceptable. Examples from previous South African general elections are discussed and evaluated from a Biblical viewpoint. It is argued that parties should not merely campaign with the aim of winning an election, but rather with the intention of respecting voters while campaigning. Simultaneously they could promote democracy within a fragile social context. Any victory outside of these parameters will not stand the test of a Biblical critique.<br /><br /> However, it would seem extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prescribe in any detail which types of negative advertisements are acceptable and which are not

Topics: Christian Worldview And Political Communication, Negative Electioneering, Political Communication Ethics, South African Elections, Christianity, BR1-1725, Philosophy. Psychology. Religion, B, DOAJ:Religion, DOAJ:Philosophy and Religion, General Works, A, DOAJ:Multidisciplinary, DOAJ:General Works, Practical Theology, BV1-5099, Moral theology, BV4625-4780
Publisher: Scriber Editorial Systems
Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.4102/koers.v72i3.209
OAI identifier: oai:doaj.org/article:396819c7a89d4ff691e5124c34bccf5c
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