Sadness about Kenya; Scrutinizing coverage of the attack

By Steven Youngblood, Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism

It doesn’t get much sadder than what happened in Kenya over the weekend. Certainly, our thoughts and best wishes go out to the victims, their families, and indeed all Kenyans.

I’ve had the honor of teaching in Kenya on two occasions, and have found Kenyans (like their brothers throughout East Africa) to be among the warmest, most wonderful people I’ve encountered anywhere. In fact, my Ugandan colleague Gloria Laker and I have a grant proposal currently being considered that would return us to Kenya next summer to teach Peace and Reconciliation Journalism workshops. As heartbreaking as these events are, they haven’t changed our minds. If the grant is approved, we’ll return to Kenya.

As for the coverage of the mall attack, my peace journalism students and I here at Park University are closely scrutinizing how the media are treating the incident. Right now, we have more questions than answers. Among these:

1. Does coverage inadvertently play into the hands of the attackers? Does it somehow glamorize or legitimize what they have done?

2. Does sensational coverage make a bad situation worse? (See images from the Sunday front page below).

3. Are bloody images necessary to tell this story, or are they merely voyeuristic and sensational? Do such images respect the privacy of victims and their loved ones?

4. Has the coverage in any way hindered officials who are seeking to end the stand-off, and to investigate the attack?

We’ll continue to monitor the situation over the coming days as we hope for the healing to begin.

Views: 653

Tags: attack, journalism, kenya, mall, park, peace, university


You need to be a member of Peace and Collaborative Development Network to add comments!

Join Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Comment by Wanja Gathu on September 24, 2013 at 3:50pm
You are right about that Josephine and that is why the reporters were barred from accessing the sight at some point and information given to them censored. Unfortunately that action came too late, more like closing the pen when the horse has already bolted.
The reporters could be forgiven because majority are novices at this. it the editors, many of them seasoned journalists that should take the flak.

Comment by Josphine Macharia on September 24, 2013 at 2:39am

It would be interesting to see the final findings of your inquiry. In some instances i felt that the journalists revealed too much about the operations of the security personnel which could jeopardize the rescue efforts. It is important to draw a line between informing the citizenry and safeguarding the operation. A tricky balance to make i suppose. Perhaps the government should issue reporting guidelines for such tragedies, putting national interest first and at the same time not curtailing press freedom. Hopefully you will share any lessons to be learnt from the Kenyan experience with PCDN.

Comment by Suzanne V. Buchanan on September 23, 2013 at 10:06pm

Your questions are so relevant, as I have no doubt this event has inflated the perceived power of Al Shabab... And while I am unsure of the answers, there are so many infrastructure related gaps that make events like this not only possible but likely, it's quite sad. I do see a role for media in creating a critical mass that leads populations to hold their representatives or the terrorists themselves accountable and to create a collective social pressure that leads to bringing people together as a nation or even a group of nations to address the terrorism pipeline... It is a dark economy of scale that few are willing to acknowledge and even fewer willing to tackle.

Comment by Wanja Gathu on September 23, 2013 at 3:36pm
As a career as a kenyan and career journalist first and the peace and conflict transformation student, i see the pitfalls that journalists who are not "conflict sensitive" fall into while trying to tell a sensitive story such as this. You are right they have played into the hands of the attackers. The attackers wanted publicity and they got heavy doses of that. Case in point, Daily nation, monday 23, writes extensively about alshabab and their leaders. Why did they pick a time such as this to do so? I would call it an error of judgement. They even carry a piece about how sophisticated in weapons and technics, the terror group has become, against the kenyan security forces weapons"....the Inspector General of Police arrived at the scene carrying a G3 rifle..."read one piece. Contrast that against the attackers were seen carrying heavy weapons and one was seen wearing a magazine...".
Coverage at the scene was also wanting as reporters tended to expose the strategy the authorities adopted to deal with the terror group, efforts that could and in some instances did compromise the operation, among other things.
That said a lot of training on conflict sensitive reporting is needed.
Comment by stanley mwaura nderitu on September 23, 2013 at 12:54pm

Welcome back to Kenya this is not about us Kenyans being unsafe its about everybody being vulnarable

Comment by stanley mwaura nderitu on September 23, 2013 at 12:53pm

Its a trying time for Kenya. Why would people target others who could even be sympathetic to their course and create new grievances why?

Sponsored Link

Please Pay What You Can to Support PCDN

Please consider Paying What You Can to help PCDN grow. We encourage you to consider any amount from $1 and up. Read the SUPPORT page prior to making a payment to see PCDN's impact and how your payment will help.

Sponsored Link

Translate This Page


PCDN Guidelines and Share Pages

By using this site you're agreeing to the terms of use as outlined in the community guidelines (in particular PCDN is an open network indexed by Google and users should review the privacy options). Please note individual requests for funding or jobs are NOT permitted on the network.

Click BELOW to share site resources Bookmark and Share
or Share on LINKEDIN




© 2016   Created by Craig Zelizer.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service