The Rwandan genocide and the media: a two-stage analysis of newspaper coverage
Harrison, Ryanne Louise
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The Rwandan genocide exhibited a faster rate of killing than any genocide in recent history, taking place over 100 days; however, at the time of its occurrence, it was relatively ignored by the international community. In 2005, Major General Romeo Dallaire singled out the Western press coverage and condemned it for its failure to adequately publicize the genocide. Nevertheless, few studies have analysed the media’s coverage of the genocide and no studies have looked at Canadian media or the criminal aspects of the genocide reporting. This study examined articles printed in the New York Times and the Globe and Mail and consisted of a two-stage content and discourse analysis. The content analysis involved analysis of 17 variables in 577 articles, while the discourse analysis examined the extent to which common themes associated with crime served as a framework for making sense of the Rwandan genocide in 311 articles. As part of the discourse analysis, the data was assessed through a cultural criminological perspective which focused on five criminological themes; crime, perpetrators, victims, law enforcers and law and order. Overall, the results show that Rwanda was presented in the media as a chaotic and primitive country, in many ways beyond the reach of law, and therefore the language of crime was rarely used to describe the genocide. The planning, organization and systematic perpetration of the genocide were largely ignored and the media instead presented genocide in Rwanda as a natural and anarchic result of a primitive and tribal society.