The media's agenda-setting role in Liberia's 2005 presidential runoff election

Ibrahim Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


“Studying the relationships between news sources, media professionals, the public and government actions within an agenda-setting framework is a demanding task, of course, but one worth pursuing if we are to gain a more complete and holistic understanding of the role of the mass communication in democratic political system” (Weaver, 1987, p. 190). Weaver's argument is examined in the context of the immediate circumstances leading to the historic victory of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female president, in the Liberian presidential runoff election in November 2005. It is argued that by framing ‘qualification and experience’ (Sirleaf's strength) over ‘common sense and popularity’ (soccer celebrity George Weah's strength), the media played an important role in influencing the presidential vote in favour of the former. It is argued that the public threats issued by Sirleaf's rival, Weah, “to teach journalists a lesson” if he was to be elected president, proved counterproductive for Weah as it only helped to reinforce the framing of his opponent's strengths and exposing his weakness, eventually tipping the balance against him in the runoff after beating his opponent by a wide margin in the first rounds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-80
JournalEcquid Novi: African Journalism Studies
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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