Kenyan media scholar, Osman Osman, has accused his country’s mass media of covering northern Kenya in the same was that media outlets of the “global north” covered Africa.
Writing in the online newsletter The Elephant, Osman said the Kenyan media’s coverage of the conflict and terror in northern Kenya had framed the incidents in such a way that those Kenyans who have never visited the area would assume that these events dominated the region.
“From the Shifta war in postcolonial Kenya to the al-Shabaab attacks in the last decade, the Kenyan media has systematically constructed an image of the region as conflict-centric, without wrestling with the historical and contextual underpinnings,” he wrote.
Osman said when al-Shabaab carried out large-scale attacks across Kenya, the media demonstrated how it viewed the attacks depending on where they occurred. “For instance, prominence was given to the Westgate terror attack, leading to quick coverage. The same treatment was not extended to the Garissa University incident, the worst attack by al-Shabaab in Kenya,” he charged.
“While this can be attributed to the proximity of Kenyan reporters to Westgate, the slow reaction and negative portrayal of the episode in Garissa demonstrated that the location of an attack establishes disparities in how Kenyan mass media covers terrorism in northern Kenya.
“Coincidentally, the relationship of the Kenyan mass media with northern Kenya mirrors how mainstream media in the West portrays African countries. It is common knowledge that western press coverage of Africa is awash with negative portrayals of the continent and mainly involves parachuting in white men to cover complex issues” he wrote.
Charging that the Kenyan mass media “is a replica of news outlets from the global north”, Osman said it had been argued and established that the only time Africa is given attention is when events were dominated by negative issues such as poverty, conflict, and natural disasters.
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