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Monday, November 23, 2015

Wahutu Siguru on representations of genocide and Mass Violence in the African Media

The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS), the Human Rights Program and the Department of Sociology continued on November 4th its Holocaust, Genocide and Mass Violence Studies (HGMV) bi-weekly workshop by hosting PhD. candidate in Sociology, Wahutu Siguru, who presented his research on representations of genocide and mass atrocities by African Press.
Wahutu’s inquiry focused on the question of how African journalists and media sources write about atrocities that take place on the continent. Journalists are involved in a sort of knowledge production, constructing and giving meaning to reality by framing events. Wahutu therefore suggests that newspapers are repositories of this knowledge; they often represent society’s understanding of contemporary events. Consequently, dominance of foreign news serves to “other” the foreigners, creating a dichotomous world.

An interesting finding of Wahutu’s research, is that most Africans obtain their images of atrocities in Africa through Western based news agencies. Wahutu also discovered that rank and file journalists in Africa see this as a failure by local media organizations, demonstrating frustration with the New York Times for example for producing inaccurate coverage of African events, but evading criticism due to its esteemed reputation. Wahutu concluded that stories in African newspapers don’t really reflect a truly African media, and outlets like Reuters shape news about Africa more than anyone else.

In a cross-cultural comparison, Siguru looked at media in Kenya and South Africa, because both of these countries are engaged politically or militarily in the Sudanese conflict. Siguru carried out content analysis of news reports dating from 2004-2005 (these years signifying the 10 year anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda the current conflict in Darfur), and also conducted a series of interviews of South African and Kenyan journalists from 2012-2015. Of the 198 articles collected from 2004-2005 on Darfur in Kenya, 119 came from wire services (e.g. Reuters). Around 24.7% were written by Kenyan journalists and 9.5% were written by journalists from the Global North. Pieces about Darfur were largely derived from wire sources and were seen as necessary due to a lack of financial resources. However, he also found that certain newspapers did have a designated journalist working exclusively on Sudan yet still relied on stories from wire services. In South Africa, he found that readers were largely uninterested in following the atrocities in Darfur, and as a result, wire sources were most commonly published.