Making the News: Why the APRM didn't
In this paper, Brendan Boyle who covered the South African peer review process for the Sunday Times newspaper, reflects on why, in his opinion, the APRM failed to capture the imagination of the public and the press, and generate a national conversation. He asks: Is it a failure of the African Union and its subsidiary organisations, or of citizens who did not seize the opportunity? Or is it the fault of the media? The answer is: all of the above. He argues that because the process was centralised in a South African government ministry, it was inevitable that the Country Self-Assessment Report (CSAR) would be overwhelmingly influenced by the government's analysis and views. The APRM slid off the radar screens of most media. Only the Sunday Times took the process seriously - but when the paper published drafts of the Eminent Persons Panel's Final Report, which did not reflect the South African government's rosy view of the situation, the minister in charge accused the paper of 'scurrilous lies, untruths, myths and reactionary propaganda.' Boyle argues that the APRM has the potential to become an important vehicle for broad-based policy review and development, but has not gained that status because of the government's determination to dominate and drive the process (at least in South Africa). He notes that governments are more likely to nurture a sustained interest in the process if it is more transparent and if they are less defensive. Merely denying the experience or perceptions of the public and civil society will not deliver a more comfortable reality. He also offers tips to civil society looking to increase media coverage of their issues.