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The struggle to free South Africa from its apartheid shackles was long and complex. One of the many ways in which the apartheid regime maintained its stranglehold in South Africa was through controlling the freedom of speech and the flow of information, in an effort to silence the voices of those who opposed it. United by the ideals of freedom and equality, but also nuanced by a wide variety of persuasions, the voices of liberation were many: African nationalists, communists, trade-unionists, pan-Africanists, English liberals, human rights activists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Jews, to name but a few.

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How central are the media to the functioning of democracy? Is democracy primarily about citizens using their vote? Does the expression of their voice necessarily empower citizens? Media and Citizenship challenges some assumptions about the relationship between the media and democracy in highly unequal societies like South Africa. In a post-apartheid society where an enfranchised majority is still unable to fundamentally practise their citizenship and experiences marginalisation on a daily basis, notions like listening and belonging may be more useful ways of thinking about the role of the media. In this context, protest is taken seriously as a form of political expression and the media’s role is foregrounded as actively seeking out the voices of those on the margins of society. Through a range of case studies, the contributors show how listening, both as a political concept and as a form of practice, has transformative and even radical potential for both emerging and established democracies.

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