Citizen journalism and moral panics: A consideration of ethics in the 2015 South African xenophobic attacks

Shepherd Mpofu, Shanade Bianca Barnabas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This article hinges on empirical qualitative data gathered from an illustrative sample to determine perceptions on enforcing ethics on social media from people who acted as citizen journalists during South Africa’s 2015 xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals. The April 2015 attacks were mediated through userdriven social media platforms such as WhatsApp, where truthful and untruthful information on xenophobia was disseminated to warn targeted recipients of impending attacks to allow them to take precautionary measures. While these messages proliferated valid and verified information there were cases where false information was spread, causing undue panic in some sectors of the immigrant society especially. This study therefore uses moral panics and citizen journalism concepts to explore the understanding of ethical implications in mediating the attacks from the perspective of citizen journalism. In the end, the argument is made that professional journalism ethics, according to the respondents in this study, need not apply to social media. Instead, the study concludes, there is a possibility of peer-to-peer monitoring and reprisals that may work as control measures in social media and citizen journalism, especially in times of crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-136
Number of pages22
JournalAfrican Journalism Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • citizen journalism
  • moral panics
  • peer-to-peer monitoring
  • professional journalism ethics
  • xenophobic attacks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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