Covering Women Candidates in News Reports on Malaysia’s 14th General Elections
Studies on media representation of women candidates during elections reveal that they tend to be muted or made less visible; and if they are indeed present, they are depicted in an unsavoury fashion. This media slant can sway public opinion of women candidates and, ultimately, have an impact on election results. With this in mind, I examine how women candidates are portrayed in selected news reports during the election campaign of Malaysia’s 14th General Election in 2018. As well, I aim to find out whether the news reports have adhered to the recommendations of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action with particular regard to the fair and balanced reporting of women candidates in news discourse. Data collected from selected online editions of newspapers and a news portal during the election campaign were analysed using tools drawn from Halliday’s systemic functional theory and van Leeuwen’s social actor network. Findings revealed that women candidates are denied agency or power as they are cast as Actors in a higher number of instrumental and non-transitive Material clauses. Their representation does not quite adhere to the recommendations of the Beijing Platform for Action as what is emphasised is their familial role as a “wife”, “mother” or “daughter”, and as appendages to their famous husbands or fathers. The focus is also on their compassion and empathy, which may make them appear less suitable for important leadership roles. These show that classic stereotypes of femininity are still being reinforced, which would delegitimise women political candidates and hinder their political career.
KeywordsWomen candidates 14th General Election News reports Beijing Platform for Action Transitivity Malaysia
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