Abstract This article examines representation of the conflict in Darfur by the media in Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and Rwanda. It analyses 850 newspaper articles published from 2003 to 2008 and journalist interviews from Kenya and South Africa. Using Mbembe’s articulation of ‘meaningful acts’ and Bourdieu’s field theory, the article highlights how the intersection of geopolitics, symbolic affirmation of unity and ‘Africanness’ and a ritualistic use of official sources led African media fields to mimic the global north in how they have framed the Darfur conflict. The most striking finding from the analysis of how these four countries reported the violence in Darfur is the salience of the ethnic conflict frame. However, the ethnic conflict frame was used in African media differently than in Western media, which often assumed a path-determined relationship between conflict and tribal identities. In contrast, African journalists used the ethnic frame to domesticate the news and as a part of specific political project to demarcate which actors should be understood as Other and with which actors audiences share an affinity. MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN ON the representation of conflicts in Africa in the media.1 Yet the literature on how African media represent conflicts in Africa is sparse, at best.2 A different, and arguably more prevalent, strand of scholarship on media in Africa has often focused on the development and growth of media fields within African countries, and how they cover events within their national borders.3 This article contributes to media scholarship by studying how African media fields represent conflict in a different African country. Specifically, it investigates how media in Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt and South Africa represented the atrocities in Darfur from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2008. This period starts a month before the rebel attack on Golo Village on 26 February 2003 that led to the most destructive wave of violence in the region, and ends a month after the International Criminal Court prosecutor provided the Pre-Trial Chamber I at The Hague with additional information following an application for the issuance of a warrant of arrest by the prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. It examines the framing of Darfur in news articles published in newspapers from these countries, combined with interviews conducted with journalists who covered and travelled to Darfur within this time period. Understanding how conflicts are framed is important because the type of frames used affects how audiences understand issues of victimhood and suffering. How the news frames foreign conflicts can affect policymakers’ decisions on whether or not to intervene and what type of intervention may be required: humanitarian, military, diplomatic or legal.4 Media framing is of particular relevance for the global south, especially Africa, where world attention is frequently directed toward episodes of violence and disorder.5 Many have been critical about the framing of Africa by Western journalists, arguing that Western representations are often grounded on colonial nostalgia.6 For example, Mahmood Mamdani has stated that the continual downplaying of specificity when it comes to representing conflict in Africa is coupled with conflict in Africa being represented ‘without regard to context’ and thus ‘as a contest between brutes’.7 Yet, there is little scholarship or commentary on the representation of conflict by African news organizations.8 This article works towards filling this gap in scholarship, treating African media fields as the unit of analysis, and studies them as engaging in ‘meaningful acts’.9 This requires placing them at the centre while pushing to the periphery media fields from the global north. This article begins by reflecting on how to theorize media representations, before introducing the original media and interview data. It then shows how the four countries framed Darfur and the differences and similarities not just amongst these countries but also between them and media fields from the global north. Two key and intertwined findings are presented. First, that African media fields do not greatly differ from those in the global north in how they framed the atrocities in Darfur, which is explained as a consequence of converging media practices at the global level and the ‘rules of the game’.10 The second finding is that despite critiques by African journalists of the ethnicized and racialized representation of conflicts in Africa by Western media, African media fields analyzed here all framed Darfur as an ethnic conflict. This article argues that this frame is primary the result of political and symbolic gestures that each country engages in when covering Darfur. These gestures play an important role in political projects rooted in understandings of who belongs and who does not. Theorizing fields and frames in the coverage of Darfur This article approaches news reports as receptacles of knowledge and thus pointers to a group’s collective knowledge inventory and processes.11 One way by which transmission occurs is through the use of specific narrative genres, from which stems the concept of framing as opposed to a bias versus objectivity paradigm, for example. A framing approach is cognizant of the fact that the news is an organizational product that is packaged and constructed, rather than simply a transcription of events by journalists.12 As stated by Robert Entman: To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described (emphasis in original).13 Entman argues that frames have approximately four locations in the communication process: the communicator (journalists), the text (news reports), the receiver of the communication (the audience) and the culture or social context.14 Highlighting the importance of frames to a communicating text, Entman states that framing enables scholars to illustrate the power of texts.15 He suggested that analyzing frames clarifies the ways through which individuals could be influenced through a ‘transfer of information from [a news report] to that of consciousness’.16 Both Entman and Stuart Hall have argued that those that receive the text may also arrive at an understanding of these frames that is different from that intended by the communicator.17 It is therefore important to acknowledge that even though knowledge gained from news reports will be dependent on the frames, this should not be understood as a path-deterministic approach to knowledge construction. Thus, audiences may decode these frames in a manner that is at odds with how journalists intended them to be decoded. Additionally, of course, journalists’ personal perception of atrocities may be at variance with how their published stories frame the atrocity; published stories are a product of a group effort within the newsroom. It is for these reasons that this article focuses on journalists as communicators and published news reports as texts. The article also relies on Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory to explain how professional norms, such as who is a credible source, affect how media organizations frame events.18 Moreover, field theory locates the profession of journalism in its ‘immediate structural environment’,19 thus allowing for an understanding of how social contexts affect media fields in Africa. Bourdieu and Rodney Benson both suggest that due to converging media practices at the global level, we should find similarities in how the different media fields frame the atrocities in Darfur.20 Consequently, we might imagine that whether a journalist works for The Daily Nation in Kenya or The Mail & Guardian in South Africa, they are likely to employ similar frames in their coverage of Darfur. Despite individual journalists having agency with regard to what stories they cover and what they make salient, how these are organized and categorized will not only be influenced by their journalistic habitus but also by what Bourdieu refers to as the ‘rules of the game’.21 One such rule is which types of sources are regarded as credible. Field theory allows for a cross-national comparative approach to studying media organizations because it places journalists and news organizations in different geographic locations within the same professional universe. How news is framed is at the intersection of geopolitics (political gestures), the need to signal a sense of unity and shared identity (symbolic gestures), and the reliance on sources to verify facts (ritualistic gesture).22 Borrowing from Karl Mannheim’s discussion of knowledge production, similarities in the use of frames result from journalists’ immersion in systems that constrict the types of knowledge structures available to them.23 However, it is also true that due to the different national contexts and realities in which media organizations are immersed, we should expect to find some variation in which frames are made more salient in each country. For example, Egypt’s relationship with Sudan should impact on how the atrocities are covered there. As stated by Mustafa Emirbayer and Victoria Johnson, organizations ‘structure and are structured by the larger social configurations in which they are enmeshed’.24 Thus, how the atrocities in Darfur are framed is at the intersection of the different gestures, ‘rules of the game’ and knowledge structures, whether in Africa or the global north. This article employs a content analysis approach to analyzing published newspaper articles and journalist interviews. To conduct this content analysis, it relies on an already existing coding instrument used in previous work on how media fields from the global north covered Darfur (Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States).25 This allows for a comparison between media fields in Africa and those in the global north. The coding scheme focuses on manifest rather than latent frames. Manifest frames refer to those frames that are self-evident, while latent frames are more implicit and thus need unpacking. The focus is on manifest frames because these frames exert the ‘first and uncontested level of influence,’26 and because at this level the different gestures are observable. Moreover, manifest frames allow for the coding of news articles to be consistent across a large number of articles, ensuring that the findings are not merely idiosyncratic to the researcher’s interpretation of the news articles, and provide the basis for a comparative reading of news stories located in different socio-political realities.27 A cross-national comparative approach also enables one to be attentive to the socio-cultural context in which a field is immersed, such as the extent to which the different gestures intersect with the field’s ‘rules of the game’ or how much the ‘larger social configurations’ structure news organizations.28 Prior work on African media has been based largely on content analyses of a small number of published news reports over short periods. In contrast, this article employs a content analysis of 850 news articles from four African countries and 22 interviews with journalists from Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria that have covered the atrocities in Darfur over a five-year time period. I relied on microfilms of the newspapers analyzed here to find all articles published by each newspaper in this time period. The author could not conduct interviews with journalists from Rwanda and Egypt due to challenges with access. The newspapers analyzed here are The Daily Nation, The East African (a regional weekly) and The Standard from Kenya; The New Times from Rwanda; The Sowetan and Mail and Guardian online both from South Africa; and Al-Ahram weekly from Egypt. All seven newspapers are published in English. This means that the newspapers analyzed here represent stories which tend to be read by audiences with high socio-economic status and a firm grasp of English in comparison to the general population. Additionally, the articles analyzed here also include articles reproduced from news agencies such as Reuters and not solely published by local African journalists.29 The choice of more than one newspaper in each country is an attempt to capture multiple perspectives and political leanings espoused by media organizations in each country. However, Rwanda had only one English newspaper during the data collection period and Egypt had only Al-Ahram weekly published in English and available either through microfilm or online. The decision to analyze three newspapers in Kenya was due to the fact that the regional weekly (The East African) is sold throughout East Africa and thus serves a wider and more diverse audience. The analysis of interviews together with the results from the content analysis is important in providing nuance and greater context. Moreover, the importance of analyzing both published news articles and journalist interviews is evidenced in the disjuncture between the presence of the ethnic conflict frame and critiques of western journalists who use this frame. The interviews highlight the tension between critiques of the use of the ethnic conflict frame by journalists from the global north, and the use of this frame by African journalists. Framing Darfur for African audiences This article focuses on a select set of frames from the overall coding instrument. The frames were created both deductively and inductively, and for this paper the most important are the crime frame; the civil war frame; the ethnic conflict frame; and the genocide frame. They were defined as follows: Crime frame: Behaviour that would be referred to as criminal or is specifically labelled criminal. Civil war: War between organized groups within the nation-state with the aim of one being secession or the overthrow of the government. Ethnic conflict: References to an ethnic/tribal conflict, or use of a Arab versus African dichotomy. Genocide: Actions are referred to as genocidal or having genocidal intent. Table 1 shows that overall Darfur was predominately referred to as a civil war, which means coverage generally depicted Darfur as a conflict between organized groups within Sudan with the aim of destabilizing the central government and gaining concessions. The use of this frame in Kenya, South Africa and Egypt can be explained as a function of the media fields’ habitus in these countries.30 Kenya and South Africa were closely engaged in negotiations in Naivasha between Khartoum and Juba, while all four countries were also directly involved in peace negotiations between rebel groups and the government in Khartoum through the African Union. Nonetheless, it is important to highlight that it was also common for an article to have multiple frames employed within it. Therefore, although an article may have referred to Darfur as civil war, the same article could also refer to Darfur as an ethnic conflict. Table 1 also points to the relative paucity of these frames in the coverage of Darfur in Rwanda. This is likely to be the result of the focus on global and regional frames rather than locally specific narratives. The following subsections explain the use of these four frames in detail. Table 1 Frequency of frames used in each country* Frames Country Civil War Crime Genocide Ethnic Conflict Kenya 45.79 42.85 23.75 34.05 South Africa 60 40.77 20 39.33 Rwanda 13.18 16.26 13.95 13.95 Egypt 70.13 10 0 19.81 Frames Country Civil War Crime Genocide Ethnic Conflict Kenya 45.79 42.85 23.75 34.05 South Africa 60 40.77 20 39.33 Rwanda 13.18 16.26 13.95 13.95 Egypt 70.13 10 0 19.81 *Percentages can add up to more than 100 in each country since news articles often used multiple frames. Darfur as a civil war A Kenyan journalist explained the predisposition to framing the Darfur conflict as a civil war in Kenya as a result of journalists seeing the political machinations between Khartoum and the rebels as newsworthy. Putting on his ‘journalistic hat’ one particular journalist posited that after 13 years of conflict, human suffering was no longer the main news story in Kenya. The focus on the political dynamics is epitomized in one of the first stories about Darfur by The Standard’s Ken Ramani who contextualized Darfur for his readers in the following way: The conflict began in 2003 when JEM and SLA rebels attacked government forces and installations. The government, caught by surprise, had very few troops in the region, and – since a large proportion of the Sudanese soldiers were of Darfur origin – distrusted many of its own units; its response was to mount a campaign of aerial bombardment supporting ground attacks by an Arab militia, the Janjaweed, recruited from local tribes and armed by the government.31 This framing echoed another early report by Gamal Nkrumah from Egypt whose first report on Darfur framed events in the following manner: Fighting between armed opposition groups and government-backed militias in Sudan’s western-most Darfur province has intensified over the past three weeks. Some of these groups are affiliated to the Sudanese umbrella opposition group, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which includes the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and other northern opposition groups such as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Sudanese Communist Party and smaller regional parties such as the Beja Congress representing the non-Arab, but Muslim, Beja ethnic group of eastern Sudan.32 In contrast, Rwandan media appears to have taken a different approach in its framing of Darfur. Despite’s Rwanda’s engagement with Darfur through the provision of troops for the peacekeeping mission, there are significantly fewer references to the atrocities as a civil war. Indeed, as Table 1 shows, Rwandan media framed Darfur more frequently as a crime or an ethnic conflict or a genocide, rather than as a civil war. Here the role of social configurations and national context is key.33 Rwanda’s collective memory of its genocide, and the framing of the genocide as a civil war by the international community, may explain the reticence to refer to Darfur as a civil war. The salience of the crime frame in Rwanda was more in line with the framing of Darfur by media fields in the global north.34 Darfur as a crime In contrast to Egypt, South Africa and Kenya, Rwanda’s coverage of Darfur was primarily framed through the language of crime and criminality. In its first coverage of Darfur on 14 March 2005, The New Times of Rwanda talked of the atrocities in terms of the persecution of Darfuris by Khartoum through a proxy army.35 The analysis framed Khartoum’s actions in terms of criminality, particularly through its use of the Janjaweed, and challenged the African Union to do more in Darfur if lives were to be saved: In its attempt to hoodwink the international community, Khartoum is not using its troops as such to persecute the populace. What Khartoum has done is to arm criminals released from her prisons and unleashed them on the innocent civilian population of Darfur. The Janjaweed, or ‘devils on horseback,’ as they are called, have proceeded to rape, murder, and generally visit mayhem in Darfur, triggering an unprecedented refugee crisis, comparable only to the one caused by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. And despite an international outcry, Khartoum does not seem ready to abandon its policy of extermination in Darfur.36 In a later story by The New Times, the emphasis on atrocities and the violation of international law was made explicit: The UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur described as massive, the scope of atrocities carried out in the territory, primarily by the government and its allied Janjaweed militias. And the situation on the ground shows a number of negative trends, which have been developing since the last quarter of 2004. They include deteriorating security, including the targeting of humanitarian workers.37 This framing was shared by journalists in Kenya and South Africa. For Kenyan journalists, there was no debate over whether or not a crime had been committed by the state. For them, the argument was more focused on how to label specific events. A journalist with The Standard stated that: Because we are talking about crimes against humanity, that are being committed, it doesn’t matter what you call them, a genocide or a terrible conflict, what is agreed is crimes have been committed and on a very large scale.38 In contrast, Egypt’s use of this frame was much lower. As previously mentioned, one way to explain this relative hesitance in framing Darfur as a crime would be the field’s habitus. The political relationship between Egypt and Sudan meant that within Egypt, it was paramount to view Darfur as a political challenge which could be settled through negotiations. This is in contrast to Darfur being a criminal enterprise which would have necessitated an apportioning of blame. The first time the crime frame was used to refer to Darfur was in 2005: Washington, however, has become more vocal in its criticism of Khartoum for too long. The European Union, too, condemned the heinous crimes in Darfur, but unlike America, Europe has stopped short of judging the Sudanese atrocities as genocide.39 The crime framing implies thinking about consequences, or even intervention, in ways quite different from the civil war frame. In interviews with journalists in Kenya and South Africa, for example, the crime frame was talked about in relation to the International Criminal Court. A common sentiment about the criminality of the atrocities is epitomized best by a South African journalist, who stated: [The State’s] backing for the Janjaweed and others who have been accused of war crime, I don’t think it is without reason that Omar el Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. I don’t think that is without reason, obviously, he refuses, I suppose for pragmatic reasons one would expect any one to refuse to submit themselves to international justice in that way but I don’t think that it’s an entirely unjustifiable indictment.40 As highlighted in the news excerpt from Egypt, the criminality of actions in the conflict did at times lead to the explicit use of the term genocide in reference to Darfur. Darfur as genocide Going further than simply identifying criminality, some articles framed Darfur in terms of genocide. This is a powerful and controversial framing, which is reflected in the hesitancy by many journalists to use the term. The largest use of the genocide label in this sample was 23.75 percent of articles in Kenyan newspapers. South African media employed this frame in 20 percent of its stories, while Rwanda employed it in only 13.95 percent of its stories on Darfur.41 In comparison, Joachim Savelsberg points to a mean of 19 percent of newspaper articles from the global north which referred to Darfur as a genocide. Of the eight countries analyzed by Savelsberg, the United States and France bookend the frequency of this label in news reports on Darfur with 31 percent and 15 percent respectively.42 The hesitance to employ the genocide frame is captured in two interviews from South Africa and Kenya from 2012. In the first interview, the interviewee was wary of the role of the International Criminal Court in influencing how the atrocities were understood by observers of Darfur: Yeah I guess Ocampo’s charge may be a bit too cut and dry it does seem to me to be fundamentally out of line. It’s quite hard to prove any kind of genocide, rather than just political ambition to stick with a charge of genocide […] it’s not like with the holocaust where you can find documents where they map out the grand strategy sort of final solution. But genocide in any case seems to be a term that has been defined rather vaguely as international criminal law, has gathered momentum. 43 In Kenya, a journalist voiced similar reservations over using the genocide label: If we are going to use a term like genocide uhm in Darfur, we had better be sure that genocide is taking place. To the best of my knowledge, and admittedly I haven’t followed this story for some time, but to the best of my knowledge I do not believe that there has been an INGO that has gone into Darfur and done extensive research that has come out with the conclusion that there is genocide. If such exists and if it is verifiable then fine that term can be used in accordance to the international definition of what a genocide is but branding it based on interviews that have been done by people here and there who, of course due to the trauma that they have been through can’t imagine anything worse than genocide to describe what they saw.44 This unease over the term genocide was also articulated by scholars such as Alex de Waal and Mahmood Mamdani.45 Alex de Waal argued that: Implicit in the use of the word ‘genocide’ for Darfur is a moral calibration: genocide is worse than other crimes against humanity, and thus to question whether the atrocities in Darfur qualify as genocide is tantamount to minimizing, denying, or excusing the crime [….] For the purposes of stopping the killing and prosecuting those responsible, the use of the term ‘genocide’ initially helped draw attention to the disaster, but it has subsequently become something of a distraction to effective action. 46 For Al-Ahram weekly, the term genocide appeared when sources specifically challenged the idea that a genocide was unfolding. In this regard, this label appears more in the form of debates and repudiations of its relevance and accuracy in Egypt, rather than as a label to categorize the crimes unfolding in Darfur. The limited use of the genocide label in the Rwandan media, compared to Kenya and South Africa, is particularly interesting. This finding is somewhat counter-intuitive, given the experience of the Rwandan genocide and the fact that it was largely not referred to as a genocide as it unfolded. One possible explanation for the minimal use of this frame is provided by Savelsberg’s analysis of the German media field.47 Savelsberg posits that Germany’s hesitance in labelling Darfur a genocide could be linked to the cultural trauma and collective memory of the holocaust, which prevented Germany from employing the genocide frame in Darfur.48 Thus if, as argued by de Waal above, genocide is worse than other crimes, then it could be thought to acquire a sense of ‘sacred evil’, meaning that is incomparable for Rwandan media.49 Darfur as an ethnic conflict The final frame discussed here, of ethnic conflict, is also one of the more surprising findings. Table 1 reveals that this framing was present and salient in the Kenyan, South African and Egyptian media fields (34 percent, 39.2 percent and 20 percent respectively), while Rwandan journalists employed it with the second most frequency in conjunction with the genocide frame (13.95 percent for both). This prominence among African journalists is surprising because scholars of media representation have often cited the use of this frame by Western journalists as a clear sign of not understanding African conflicts.50 In his discussion of Rwanda, Kenneth Harrow states that commentators with superficial knowledge of Rwanda retreated ‘into the comfortable stereotype that these were two “tribes” with ancient tribal hatred that always fought wars against each other.’51 This critique of Western representations of Africa was also voiced by journalists in Kenya and South Africa: [It] happens in spite of the fact that there is so much information out there about Africa. What I feel is there is a laziness, a lot of, well not just western media but Westerners themselves, have adopted this with respect to Africa, yes of course they have their own very local interest as we have ours.52 I mean also whether it’s you know Darfur or some complicated conflict within Africa, I mean we know that Western journalists have you know adopted you know, have sometimes simplistically adopted it you know because it just makes it easier and frankly that’s lazy journalism.53 Yet despite these critiques, the ethnic conflict frame was used with surprising frequency by African media. Kenyan journalists discussed the use and presence of this frame as one of many stages in the on-going conflict. Take, for example, The Standard’s Ken Ramani who referred to the atrocities in the following manner: While the conflict has a political basis, it has also acquired an ethnic dimension in which civilians were deliberately targeted on the basis of their ethnicity, and an economic dimension related to the competition between pastoralists and farmers for land and water.54 This framing of the atrocities echoes one article from Egypt, where the author argues that political marginalization of Darfur by Khartoum had led to a rise in ethnic tensions.55 The puzzling prominence of the ethnic conflict frame in African media, despite criticisms of Western journalists that use it, can be explained in terms of its functional effects. In South Africa, this frame was seen as a necessary tool in creating and highlighting a shared kinship between the journalists, their audience and victims. In this sense, journalists worked to create a sense of affinity between victims and their audience in order to create an urge within the latter to ‘do something.’ Consider this explanation from a South African journalist: We often don’t consider North Africa or big chunks of north Africa as ‘real Africa’ Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia. I mean but also Sudan, at least the northern part of Sudan, so therefore this kind of divide is very evident in reporting and in the way [Darfur] was analysed right […] our implicit support lies with the so-called black Africans. For two reasons, the one is the fact that we can associate better with them both because of, if you want to call it that, political strife a similar political strife that we’ve had from apartheid in South Africa but also the fact that we know that we almost culturally understand the people from South Sudan better than we do the people from North Sudan.56 In both Kenya and South Africa, journalists alluded to using this frame to enable their audience to make cultural connections between their world and that of the Other being represented. Yet for both Kenyan and South African journalists, there is a vacillation in the use of this frame in discussing Darfur. On the one hand, journalists were openly critical of Western journalists using this frame, with some calling it ‘lazy’, while on the other hand, these same journalists saw no contradiction arguing that ‘it would be naïve to think that there is no sort of ethnic issue at play’.57 Rwanda’s prominent use of this frame is also one that is surprising when one considers how its own genocide was framed in terms of ethnic conflict by media from the global north. One explanation is the fact that this frame was often employed in relation to direct quotation of sources interviewed for stories. In two different articles, the use of this frame was employed in a manner that implied that it was not necessarily Rwandan journalists that framed the atrocity as an ethnic conflict. Instead, the stories implied that this frame was a claim that had been leveled against the Khartoum government by others: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whose government has been accused of aiding Arab militias fighting ethnic blacks in Darfur, had long opposed a UN force to help the ill-armed 7,000-soldier African Union peacekeeping mission.58 It is also important to point out that many journalists from the global north interviewed by Savelsberg are also wary about the use of this frame. In an illuminating interview for his book, Representing mass violence, Savelsberg captures a journalist’s frustration over the use of this frame in Western newspapers, saying: The distinction between black Africans and, you know, Arabs was one that has quite a lot of currency as an easy differentiating point between the sides. But when you scrutinize it, it breaks down. So that one was particularly problematic.59 Scholars have often been critical of Western media’s use of this frame as an explanatory factor when covering atrocities in African countries.60 African journalists have also voiced their frustration at the ethnicization of conflicts by Western journalists as shown here.61 Yet, what Table 1 shows is that media fields working in all four countries employed this frame with relative frequency. While there may be several explanations for this, three forms of symbolic and political gesturing are worth considering more closely. First, I suggest that media fields in these four countries tend to have a more nuanced understanding of ethnicity and ethnic identities.62 Indeed, as a Kenyan journalist quipped, ‘look we have been ethnic for ages’, and as such Kenyans do not primarily view ethnic identities as being inimical to peace or their daily lives.63 Work by Chi Mgbako shows a similar sophistication in understanding and talking about ethnic identities in Rwanda.64 The use of the ethnic frame by African media fields, therefore, does not have a path-determined relationship with conflict as it at times appears to have when used in the global north. Second, the ethnic frame can work to domesticate the news. In this sense, it operates as a filter through which the audience evaluates and understands the protagonists.65 For an event to be judged as newsworthy, it has to be anchored ‘in a narrative framework that is already familiar to and recognizable by newsmen as well as by audiences.’66 Entman also suggests that for a frame to be successful, it needs to be bounded by the intended audience’s cultural repertoire and taken-for-granted knowledge.67 This would suggest that because many people in African societies identify as belonging to ethnic communities, news coverage of events will frame them in a manner that is in line with the taken-for-granted knowledge(s) of the audience. This frame acts as a mechanism through which these media fields can filter the events in Darfur through narratives that rely on recognizable discourse on, and understandings of, ethnic identity. For example, in South Africa, journalists spoke about a shared racial affinity between South Africans and those they identified as ‘black African’. This worked to tap into the memory of racial discrimination endured by black South Africans, creating a relationship based on the shared trauma of racial and political persecution. Third, bringing together the two previous points, I suggest that the use of this frame in Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa also works to Other those defined as perpetrators of the conflict, while simultaneously highlighting a shared affinity between the audience and the victims. In South Africa this shared history and trauma is based on racial discrimination, while in both Rwanda and Kenya this shared history is one of the manipulation of ethnic identity for the benefit of the political elite. In the case of Egypt, the use of ‘black African’ and ‘Arab’ identities also works to create a shared affinity between Al-Ahram’s audience and actors in Darfur. In this framing, the regime in Khartoum was framed as Arab, and so were the militias that had been deployed in Darfur by the regime. Understood this way, the coverage of Darfur in Egypt worked to portray the atrocities as an internal issue that only the regime was able to resolve. 68 While it has been argued that the use of ethnic conflict as a frame depoliticizes conflicts in Africa,69 I argue that the use of this frame to talk about Darfur in Africa is in itself a conscious political project. In Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa, specifically, it is a project rooted in who is considered African and who is not. Black African and Arab in this interpretation are identities that are exclusive in their very nature. In Kenya, a journalist with many years of experience covering and travelling to Darfur referred to the perpetrators as follows: The Arabs are trying to colonize the native black races that actually lived in Darfur region. So, in so doing, the same people have been trying to reclaim what was actually rightfully theirs from time immemorial, their land, their grazing land, the oil, and all the natural resources that are there.70 Framing perpetrators as Arab/Muslim marks them as being what Mbembe calls ‘radically Other.’71 Thus the perpetrators were categorized as outsiders who were framed as ‘brown colonizers’ that had migrated into Sudan, displacing black Africans. Additionally, this frame also implicitly intertwines the Janjaweed with the global war on terror discourse, and the phrase ‘Arab militia’ tapped into already present misgivings/prejudices against Arabs/Muslims within and outside the continent.72 This frame defines an African Other who is linked, intertextually at least, to a global Other. Conclusion This article has discussed the ways in which Darfur was framed for African audiences to demonstrate the importance of analyzing how African news organizations frame conflicts in other African countries, and how journalists talk about their coverage of conflict. The use of particular frames has power in terms of shaping policies, interventions, and beliefs about the roots of conflict. Table 1 illuminates the different frames used to represent Darfur by Kenyan, Egyptian, Rwandan and South African media. The preponderance of the civil war frame in Kenya, South Africa and Egypt demonstrates the salience of geopolitical concerns, whereas Rwanda’s focus on the crime frame demonstrates a greater willingness to criticize the Khartoum regime. Table 1 also captures the presence of the ethnic conflict frame in all four countries. However, its presence should not necessarily be understood as bearing similar connotations to its use by Western media organizations when the latter frame conflict in Africa. Used by African media fields, the ethnic frame does not have the causal significance in explaining conflict in Africa, rather it is used largely to domesticate the news and to demarcate which actors should be understood as Other and whom audiences share an affinity with. In more theoretical terms, the article shows how journalists and their media organizations internalize narratives that are used to talk about events such as the atrocities in Darfur. The dominance of these frames is logical within the context of the limited framing repertoires faced by journalists, as explicated by Joachim Savelsberg and Ryan King.73 They posit that narrative genres and frames are often restricted, with the effect of constricting how much journalists can be innovative in their coverage of atrocities. Table 1 shows a considerable degree of similarity and even homogeneity in media framings of Darfur across four very different African countries, and these framings also resonate strongly with Western representations of the conflict. The intersection of the ‘rules of the game’ (i.e. who counts as an important source) and geopolitics led to a striking similarity in the primary frame employed in the coverage of Darfur. Interviews with journalists, however, underscored the different symbolic and political gestures journalists engaged when using the ethnic conflict frame, such as their more nuanced understanding of ethnicity, the need to domesticate the news, and highlighting a shared identity while simultaneously othering perpetrators. Analyzing African media fields as engaging in ‘meaningful acts’ rather than as peripheral is important in developing a richer understanding of the politics of discourse and representation in global politics. Placing African media organizations and journalist voices at the center of analysis when studying how conflict in Africa is reported provides for a more nuanced conversation on the representation of Africa in the media. Footnotes 1. Anne Chaon, ‘Who failed in Rwanda, journalists or the media’, in Allan Thompson (ed.), The media and the Rwanda genocide (Pluto Press, New York, NY, 2007), pp. 160–66; Garth Myers, Thomas Klak, and Timothy Koehl, ‘The inscription of difference: News coverage of the conflicts in Rwanda and Bosnia’, Political Geography 15, 1 (1996), pp. 21–46; Joachim Savelsberg, Representing mass violence: Conflicting responses to human rights violations in Darfur (University of California Press, Oakland, CA, 2015); Lindsey Hilsum, ‘Reporting Rwanda: The media and the aid agencies’, in Thompson, The media and the Rwanda genocide, pp. 167–87; Peter J. Schraeder and Brian Endless, ‘The media and Africa: The portrayal of Africa in the ‘New York Times’ (1955–1995)’, A Journal of Opinion 26, 2 (1988), pp. 29–35; Philippa Atkinson, ‘Deconstructing media mythologies of ethnic war in Liberia’, in Tim Allen and Jean Seaton (eds), The media of conflict: War reporting and representations of ethnic violence (Martin’s Press, Inc, New York, NY, 1999), pp. 192–218; Philippa Atkinson, ‘Representations of conflict in the Western media: The manufacture of a barbaric periphery’, in Tracy Skelton and Tim Allen (eds), Culture and global change (Routledge, London, 1999), pp. 102–8; John Wa’Njogu, ‘Representation of Africa in the western media: Challenges and opportunities’, in Kimani Njogu and John Middleton (eds), Media and identity in Africa (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2009), pp. 76–83. 2. The few exceptions are Bella Mody, The geopolitics of representation in foreign news: Explaining Darfur (Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2010); Carina Ray ‘Darfur in the African press’, in Salah Hassan and Carina Ray (eds) Darfur and the crisis of governance in Sudan: A critical reader (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 2009), pp. 170–98; Emmanuel Alozie, ‘Sudan and South Africa – A framing analysis of Mail and Guardian Online’s coverage of Darfur’, Ecquid Novi 26, 1 (2005), pp. 63–84; Emmanuel Alozie, ‘What did they say? African media coverage of the first 100 days of the Rwanda crisis’, in Allan Thompson, The media and the Rwanda genocide, pp. 211–30. 3. These include Francis Nyamnjoh, Africa’s media, democracy and the politics of belonging (Zed Books, London, 2005); Herman Wasserman, and Jacinta M. Maweu, ‘The freedom to be silent? Market pressures on journalistic normative ideals at the Nation Media Group in Kenya’, Review of African Political Economy 41, 142 (2014), pp. 623–33; Herman Wasserman and Jacinta M. Maweu, ‘The tension between ethics and ethnicity: Examining journalists’ ethical decision-making at the Nation Media Group in Kenya’, Journal of African Media Studies 6, 2 (2014), pp. 165–79; Jacinta M. Maweu, ‘A clash between journalistic and capitalist values? How advertisers meddle in journalists’ decisions at the Nation Media Group in Kenya’, Journal of African Media Studies 6, 1 (2014), pp. 27–42. 4. Stanley Cohen, States of denial: Knowing about atrocities and suffering (Blackwell Publishing, Malden, MA, 2001); Daniela Dimitrova and Jesper Strömbäck, ‘Foreign policy and the framing of the 2003 Iraq war in elite Swedish and US newspapers’, Media, War and Conflict 1, 2 (2008), pp. 203–20; Myers, Klak, and Koehl, ‘The inscription of difference’. 5. Herbert J. Gans, Deciding what’s news: A study of CBS evening news, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek, and Time (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL, 1979). 6. Apollo Amoko, ‘The missionary gene in the Kenyan polity: Representations of contemporary Kenya in the British media’, Callaloo 22, 1 (1999), pp. 223–39; Mahmood Mamdani, ‘The politics of naming: Genocide, civil war, insurgency’, London Review of Books 29, 5 (2008), pp. 5–8; Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and subject: Contemporary Africa and the legacy of late colonialism (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1996); Mahmood Mamdani, When victims become killers: Colonialism, nativism, and the genocide in Rwanda (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2001); Joel Gruley and Chris Duvall, ‘The evolving narrative of the Darfur conflict as represented in The New York Times and The Washington Post, 2003–2009’, GeoJournal 77 (2012), pp. 27–46. 7. Mahmood Mamdani, Saviors and survivors: Darfur, politics and the war on terror (The Rivers Press, New York, NY, 2010), p. 19. 8. The few exceptions being, Mody, ‘The geopolitics of representation’; Ray, ‘Darfur in the African press’; Alozie, ‘A framing analysis’; Alozie, ‘What did they say?’; Mark Leopold, ‘‘The War in the North’: Ethnicity in Ugandan press explanations of the conflict’, in Tim Allen and Jean Seaton (eds), The media of conflict: War reporting and representations of ethnic violence (Martin’s Press, Inc, New York, NY, 1999), pp. 219–43; David Styan, ‘Misrepresenting Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa? Constraints and dilemmas of current reporting’, in Allen and Seaton (eds), The media of conflict. 9. Achille Mbembe, On the postcolony (University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2001), p. 6. 10. Pierre Bourdieu, On television (New Press, New York, 1999). 11. Savelsberg, ‘Representing mass violence’. 12. Dimitrova, and Strömbäck, ‘Foreign policy’; Wilbur Schramm, One day in the world’s press: Fourteen great newspapers on a day of crisis (Stanford University Press, California, 1959); and Michael Schudson, The sociology of news (Norton & Company Incorporated, New York, NY, 2011). 13. Robert Entman, ‘Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm’, Journal of Communication 43, 4 (1993), pp. 51–58, p. 52. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid, p. 53. 17. Entman ‘Framing’; Stuart Hall, ‘Encoding and decoding in the television discourse’, in Stuart Hall, Dorothy Hobson, Andrew Lowe, and Paul Willis (eds) Culture, media and language (Hutchinson, London, 1973). 18. Rodney Benson, ‘News media as a “journalistic field”: What Bourdieu adds to new-intuitionalism, and vice versa’ Political Communication 23, 2 (2006), pp. 187–202; Bourdieu, ‘On television’; and Mustafa Emirbayer and Victoria Johnson, ‘Bourdieu and organizational analysis’, Theory and Society 37, 1 (2008), pp. 1–44. 19. Benson, ‘Field theory in comparative context: A new paradigm for media studies’, Theory and Society 28, (1999), pp. 463–98, p. 468. 20. Benson, ‘Field theory’; Bourdieu, ‘On television’; see also Pamela J. Shoemaker and Cohen Akiba, News around the world: Content, practitioners and the public (Routledge, New York, NY, 2006). 21. Bourdieu, ‘On television’; Benson, ‘Field theory’. 22. See Mbembe, ‘On the postcolony’, for a discussion of gestures. 23. Karl Mannheim, Ideology and utopia (Routledge, New York, NY, 1936), p. 267. 24. Emirbayer and Johnson, ‘Bourdieu and organizational analysis’. 25. Savelsberg ‘Representing mass violence’; Joachim Savelsberg and Hollie Nyseth-Brehm ‘Representing human rights violations in Darfur: Global justice, national distinction’ American Journal of Sociology 121, 2 (2015), pp. 564–603; Joachim Savelsberg and Wahutu Siguru, ‘News media and African genocide: Toward a global north-African comparison’ in Michelle Brown (ed.), Oxford research encyclopedia of criminology (Oxford University Press, Online, April 2017). 26. Benson, ‘Shaping immigration news’, p. 5. 27. The author also used two researchers to help with the coding, but tests to measure the level to which coders agree or disagree as they conduct the content analysis produced a score of 0.74, which is generally considered to be high, showing that the results presented here are not due to subjective interpretation of the data. 28. Emirbayer and Johnson, ‘Bourdieu and organizational analysis’; Benson, ‘Shaping immigration news’. 29. For a discussion on wire agencies and conflict in Africa, see Mel Bunce, ‘The new foreign correspondent at work: Local-national “stringers” and global news coverage of conflict in Darfur’, Reuters report: Reuters Institute for the study of journalism (2011), pp. 1–17. For a comparison between the coverage of Darfur in Kenya by local journalists and wire agencies, see j. Siguru Wahutu, ‘What African media? Rethinking research on Africa’s Press’, Global Media and Communication (forthcoming, December 2017); j. Siguru Wahutu, ‘The politics of representation: Wire agencies and local news organization in the coverage of Darfur’ (Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal, Canada, 2017). 30. Ibid. 31. Ken Ramani, ‘Just who are the dreaded Darfur Janjaweed militia’, The Standard, 20 December 2004, <http://allafrica.com/stories/200412240151.html> (20 June 2013). 32. Gamal Nkrumah, ‘Home to roost’, Al-Ahram, 27 March–2 April 2004, Issue no. 631 <http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/archive/2003/631/re2.htm> (12 April 2013). 33. Emirbayer and Johnson ‘Bourdieu and organizational analysis’; Savelsberg ‘Representing mass violence’, p. 254. 34. Savelsberg and Nyseth-Brehm, ‘Representing human rights violations’; Savelsberg ‘Representing mass violence’, p. 236. 35. Muthuma Gitau, ‘The Darfur crisis: Are accords enough?’ The New Times, 14 March 2005. 36. Ibid. 37. Kenneth Kimathi, ‘Darfur in the pan, unity on the call’, The New Times, 11 October 2005. 38. Interview, journalist, Nairobi, Kenya, July 2012. 39. Gamal Nkrumah, ‘Darfur on the back burner’, Al-Ahram, 10–16 February 2005, Issue no. 729 <http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/Archive/2005/729/re4.htm> (12 April 2013). 40. Interview, journalist, Johannesburg, South Africa, June 2012. 41. The finding on Egypt’s use of the genocide label is only in regards to Al-Ahram weekly, Al-Ahram daily did use this frame but because it is primarily in Arabic, it was not included in this analysis. Nonetheless, Mody finds it used in 15 percent of articles, similar to findings on France. See Mody ‘The geopolitics of representation’, p. 158; Savelsberg, ‘Representing mass violence’, p. 256. 42. Savelsberg, ‘Representing mass violence’, p. 253. 43. Interview, newspaper editor, Johannesburg, South Africa, June 2012. 44. Interview, journalist, Nairobi, Kenya, July 2012. 45. Alex de Waal, ‘Reflections on the difficulties of defining Darfur’s crisis as genocide’, Harvard Human Rights Journal 20 (2007), pp. 26–33; Mamdani, ‘The politics of naming’. 46. de Waal, ‘Reflections’, p. 32. 47. Savelsberg, ‘Representing mass violence’, pp. 197; Savelsberg and Nyseth-Brehm ‘Representing human rights violations’, p. 596. 48. It should be noted that Savelsberg specifically discusses German journalists who bore the weight of being seen as perpetrators of the holocaust, which is quite different to the Rwanda case. Savelsberg, ‘Representing mass violence’. 49. Jeffery C. Alexander, ‘On the social construction of moral universals’, in Jeffery Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Bernhard Giesen, Neil Smelser and Piotr Sztompka (eds) Cultural traumas and collective identity (University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2004), pp. 196–263. 50. See Beverly G. Hawk (ed.), Africa’s media image (Praeger, New York, NY, 1992); Bosah Ebo, ‘American media and African culture’ in Hawk, Africa’s media image, pp. 15–25; Gruley and Duvall, ‘The evolving narrative of the Darfur conflict’; Atkinson, ‘Deconstructing media mythologies’; Atkinson, ‘Representations of conflict’; Mel McNulty, ‘Media ethnicization and the international response to war and genocide in Rwanda’, in Allen and Seaton, The media of conflict, pp. 268–86; Myers, Klak, and Koehl, ‘The inscription of difference’. 51. Kenneth W. Harrow, “Ancient tribal warfare”: Foundational fantasies of ethnicity and history’, Research in African Literatures 36, 2 (2005), pp. 34–45, p. 35; Gruley and Duvall, ‘The evolving narrative of the Darfur conflict’, p. 30. 52. Interview, journalist, Nairobi, Kenya, July 2012. 53. Interview journalist, Pretoria, South Africa, June 2012. 54. Ramani, ‘Just who are the dreaded Darfur janjaweed militia’. 55. ‘The roots of the Darfur problem’, Al-Ahram daily, cited in Mody, ‘The geopolitics of representation’, p. 157. 56. Interview, journalist, Johannesburg, South Africa, June 2012. 57. Interview, journalist, Pretoria, South Africa, June 2012. 58. Robert Mukombozi and Ignatius Suuna, ‘Kagame speaks on Darfur-government will back AU, UN deployment’ The New Times, 23 April 2007. 59. Interview, journalist, by Joachim Savelsberg for ‘Representing mass violence.’ 60. See McNulty, ‘Media ethnicization’, p. 283; Melissa Wall ‘An analysis of news magazine coverage of Rwanda crisis in the United States’, in Thompson, The media and the Rwanda genocide, pp. 261–75. 61. See also Joachim Savelsberg, Hollie Nyseth-Brehm and j. Siguru Wahutu, ‘Journalistic field in national and global contexts: Reporting on atrocities in Darfur’ (Sociology of Media Pre-Conference, New York, NY, 2013). 62. For a discussion on ethnicity and the media in Africa, see Nyamnjoh, ‘Africa’s media’; Wasserman and Maweu, ‘The tension between ethics and ethnicity’. For a discussion of ethnicity and African societies, see Mamdani, Citizen and subject; Mamdani, When victims become killers. 63. Interview, journalist, Nairobi, Kenya, May 2015. 64. Chi Mgbako, ‘Ingando solidarity camps: Reconciliation and political indoctrination in post-genocide Rwanda’, Harvard Human Rights Journal 18, 1 (2005), pp. 201–224. 65. Nel Ruigrok and Wouter van Atteveldt, ‘Global angling with a local angle: How U.S., British, and Dutch newspapers frame global and local terrorist attacks’, The Harvard International Journal of Press Politics 12, 1 (2007), pp. 68–90. 66. Michael Gurevitch, Mark Levy, and Itzhak Roeh, ‘The global newsroom: Convergences and diversities in the globalization of television news,’ in Peter Dahlgren and Colin Sparks (eds), Communication and citizenship: Journalism and the public sphere (Routledge, London, 1991), pp. 195–216. 67. Entman, ‘Framing’. 68. See Mody, ‘The geopolitics of representation’, p. 158. 69. See Atkinson, ‘Deconstructing media mythologies’; Atkinson, ‘Representations of conflict’; Ebo, ‘American media and African culture’; and Gruley and Duvall, ‘The evolving narrative of the Darfur conflict’ 70. Interview, journalist, Nairobi, Kenya, July 2012. 71. Mbembe, On the postcolony, p. 11. 72. Mamdani, Saviors and survivors. 73. Joachim Savelsberg and Ryan King, ‘Law and collective memory’, Annual Review of Sociology 3 (2007), pp.189–211. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal African Society. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
African Affairs – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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