Looking at media from a cultural perspective

How should we understand the negative role of news media in Rwanda before, during, and after the 1994 genocide? Should we blame them for fueling ethnic hatred [yes even today, though it’s done in a more sophisticated way] or we should rather look into the cultural system that make it possible to have such news media? This was the subject of my guest lecture today at Amsterdam University College.

50 International students attended and listened to my argument which is: In Rwanda we have hate memories [see my upcoming volume ‘Complexities and Dangers of Remembering in Rwanda’], and we should not be astonished that hate media would stem and fetch from them like RTLM, Kangura, Muhabura, Impuruza, and others did (though only a few drew scholarly attention). Unfortunately, the 1h30 I had was not enough to answer the many questions. With the help of Bourdieu, Derrira, and to some extent, Lippmann, among others, I demonstrated that journalists have a certain social origin and so many factors that push them to have a certain perception rather than another (that’s not a Rwandan exception).

In other words, Journalism does not operate in a vacuum. So, when society and its culture are guided by hate memories (look at our proverbs, myths, legends, and if you want our notion of democracy), where do you think journalists will fetch their historical contexts and background from?

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