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Media Representation of the Rwandan Genocide Essay

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This article considers how the representation of events in the news can serve to shape public opinion or discourage statesmanship. Through the example of the Rwanda Genocide my argument is that representation is constitutive of the ways in which we understand the world and of the hierarchy that currently exists within mainstream media. As (Michael J. Shapiro, 1989) discussed ‘The reason for looking at representational practices in relation to texts, language and modes of interpretation is because it is through these practices that ideas about International Relations are produced’.

Through the media coverage on the Rwanda Genocide I investigate how a lack of representation can limit the study and practice of International Relations. Alan Kuperman (2000) presented the argument that ‘Western media blame the international community for not intervening quickly, but the media must share blame for not immediately recognizing the extent of the carnage and mobilizing world attention to it’. I then argue how representation can often be bias and misleading, and thus manipulate the understanding of information. During the Rwanda Genocides, the role of the radio and print in inciting killing and fuelling hate speech against the Tutsis, demonstrated the importance of controlled representation through the media. These two insights link directly to how central the concept of representation is to the study and practice of International Relations. The Western Media coverage during the Rwandan Genocides is analogous to how our understanding of conflict, war, or, more generally, the space within which international politics is deployed is always mediated by modes of representation.

Both domestic and international news media played a crucial ro...


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...ions. Department of International Politics. 1(1), 1-15.

Mamdani, Mahmoud. (2002). African states, citizenship and war: a case study. International Affairs, 78, 3, 493-506.

Obinor, F. 2005. Reporting Conflicts in African Way. Guardian Online, 14 November. Available at (accessed 19 May 2011).

Shapiro M J (December 1989). The Politics of Representation: Writing Practices in Biography, Photography and Policy Analysis. . 5th ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 203.

Sibomana, A. 1999. Hope for Rwanda: Conversations with Laure Guilbert and Harve Deguine. Pluto Press, London, UK, 205 pp.

Sidaway, J.D. (2003). Sovereign excesses? Portraying postcolonial sovereigntyscapes. Political
Thompson, A. (2007). International media coverage of the Genocide. In: Kofi Annan THE MEDIA AND THE RWANDA GENOCIDE. London: Pluto Press. 145-261.


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