The media plays a significant role in shaping the global culture, perspective, and promoting peace. Journalists and the media, therefore are the key players who endeavor to promote and advocate for a sustainable framework, where news and information are communicated across a diverse array of ethnic cultures and values. Whereas it is imperative to observe and analyze dependable media patterns, generalizing the media as a homogenous aspect may prove to be troublesome. As a result, media reporting on a conflict is influenced by significant aspects such as editorial priorities, involved parties, intervening parties, anticipated audience interest, as well as the overall volume of coverage. In such constructs, certain issues may not be deemed to be newsworthy hence the general differences in media coverages. Thus, this paper seeks to outline the key differences in the way the Rwandan and Bosnian wars were covered by the press, discussing the rhetorical devices utilized to depict the Rwandan conflict as a primitive war. Additionally, the paper explores the compelling need to analyze the media and the way the media represents conflicts.
Voltaire, a French philosopher, once asserted that we owe respect to the living; to the dead, we owe only truth (Thompson). Contrary, to this school of thought, however, the media was lacking in the coverage of the Rwandan conflict. Whereas the local media fueled the conflicts, the international press was absent. The genocide saw Belgium lose close to ten soldiers after which they resolved to pull out from the country. Other significant powers were also of the view that Rwanda was of no strategic value both economically and geographically hence their reluctance in intervening. The international media also seemed to have adopted the same approach. On the other side of the world, was the Bosnian war that received significant media coverage. A short-term, as well as a general analysis of the coverage about both conflicts, depict a series of differences in the general tone of reporting, vocabularies used, headlines, framing processes, among an array of other key aspects.
Whereas the media reported on both conflicts since the onset in 1990 through 1995, there were significant differences in the overall volume of coverage. For instance, major newspapers in the US covered the Bosnian war approximately 25times more than they did in the Rwandan war. In 1994, when the Rwandan genocide was at its peak, the newspapers still covered the Bosnian war more. The differences in volume were further depicted by the frequency and number of articles in mainstream newspapers and international media outlets. The two conflicts were plausibly equally fatal, but that was not mirrored by the volume of media coverage. Given the coverage volume, one would expect Bosnia to be a larger territory with more population than Rwanda, but that was not the case.
Rhetorical devices used to construct the Rwandan conflict as a primitive war
Additionally, there were major differences in the terms used by the media in the coverage of both wars. These terms can be analyzed by various aspects such as languages of civil war, ethnicity, and violence. Military related key terms were used about the Bosnian war more often than they were employed in the reporting of the Rwandan war while most articles on the Bosnian war explicitly mentioned war strategies and tactics. Based on this analysis, it was evident that the media was reluctant to discuss the Rwandan war about strategies as much as it did during the Bosnian war. Journalists covering the Rwandan conflict had little knowledge of the facts and background of the war. Their stories and coverage were mainly founded on killings reports.
Succinctly, the backdrop above depicts the Rwandan conflict as a primitive war. The media managed to paint this picture through the use of four main rhetoric tools namely; tribal symbolism and order, the depiction of the Rwandan conflict as timeless, dependence on non-African sources, and placeless conflation of Rwanda and Africa. The first device incorporates utilization of imagery inclined towards tribalism. Media coverage in Rwanda saw stories that categorized the Rwandese by their tribes be they Tutsi or Hutu. These physical descriptions and categorization by the media propagated the general tribal hypothesis and myths. The second rhetoric aspect described the Rwandan war as timeless in that the fighting was categorized as ancient. On the other hand, the third rhetoric tool refers to the international media's reliance on United Nation eyewitnesses and accounts of European sources. Finally, the conflation of Rwanda's conflict with the rest of the continent was used a rhetoric tool whereby the war was generalized and reported as a local struggle in a less important African unit. Collectively, the media used a blend of these rhetoric devices to depict the Rwandan conflict as a primitive war.
In synopsis, the reading by Myers, Klak, and Koehl on the Rwandan and Bosnian media coverage mirror the significance of media analysis and its representation of conflicts (Myers, Klak and Koehl). Furthermore, the reading depicts the differences and the biased approach that the media adopts in its coverage of international events such as the two conflicts. From the backdrop above, it is clear that the media plays a major role in shaping the global perspective. In light of this comprehension, media analysis becomes imperative. The analysis aid in the observation and illustration of dependable media patterns as was the case in the Bosnian and Rwandan conflicts. Ultimately, media analysis is an essential aspect in the identification of the parallels and differences in media coverage and its representation of conflicts.
Myers, Garth, Thomas Klak and Timothy Koehl. "The inscription of difference: news coverage of the conflicts in Rwanda and Bosnia." Political Geography (1996): 21-46. Print.
Thompson, Allan. The Media and the Rwanda Genocide. London: Pluto Press, 2007. Print.
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