The Media and the Rwanda Crisis: Effects on Audiences and Public Policy

Philo, Greg; Hilsum, Lindsey; Beattie, Liza and Holliman, Rick (1998). The Media and the Rwanda Crisis: Effects on Audiences and Public Policy. In: Pieterse, Jan Nederveen ed. World Orders in the Making: Humanitarian Intervention and Beyond. Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 211–229.



This chapter is based on an analysis of British television news coverage of the Rwanda refugee crisis of July 1994. It is part of a programme of research undertaken by the Glasgow Media Group into relationships between media coverage, audience reception and political decision-making processes. In other work, the Group is examining media representations of migration from the Third World and the impact of such images on public beliefs and attitudes to issues of ‘race’. The representation of crisis in the Third World was also examined in earlier work on the Ethiopian famine of 1984–85 and the media response to this. This study showed the low priority which news stories from the Third World typically have in Western news agendas and the very limited range of explanations which are offered in news reports on the nature and origins of such crises. This theme is also developed in the current study of the media and the Rwanda crisis in that the reasons given for the refugee exodus are extremely limited. It is also clear, however, that whatever the faults of the media, they have become central to the priorities and planning of some NGOs and government agencies. As we will show, this can have a crucial impact on policy decisions.

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