Philip Onguny


This article examines news coverage of insecurity and human suffering in Africas Great Lakes region. Drawing on news reports collected through LexisNexis, it discusses how international news reports use place differences to give prominence to certain events in the region, making them key referents of human insecurity and suffering. The discussion is guided by the assumption that, images are, on the one hand, reproductions, but they have a second meaning as well: a mental picture of something not real or present (Gamson et al., 1992, p. 374). To highlight how stereotypical images of Africa still dominate international news reports, with hard-line opinions and frame-fit inscriptions, the article focuses on image representations and conveyed meanings rather than factual inferences. Overall, the events discussed should be read as part of the broader narratives feeding into the stereotypical image of Africa as an insecure place, marred by trauma and horror.


Full Text:



Altheide, D. L. (2007) ‘The mass media and terrorism’. Discourse & Communication 1(3): 287-308.

Austesserre, S. (2010) The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Campbell, D. (2004) ‘Horrific blindness: Images of death in contemporary media’. Journal for Cultural Research 8(1): 55-74.

Chouliaraki, L. (2006) The Spectatorship of Suffering. London: Sage.

Chouliaraki, L. (2013) The Ironic Spectator: Solidarity in the Age of Post-humanitarianism. Cambridge: Polity.

Cohen, H. J. (2011) ‘Qadaffi and sub-Saharan Africa’. Journal of International Peace Operations 7(3): 37-38.

Cottle, S. (2011) ‘Taking global crises in the news seriously: notes from the dark side of globalization’. Global Media and Communication 7(2): 77-95.

Chung, H. and Mau S. (2014) ‘Subjective Insecurity and the Role of Institutions’. Journal of European Social Policy 24(4): 303-318.

Drumbl, M. (2012) ‘Child Soldiers and Clicktivism: Justice, Myths, and Prevention’. Journal of Human Rights Practice 4 (3): 481-485.

Fair, J. E. (1993) ‘War, Famine, and Poverty: Race in the Construction of Africa’s Media Image’. Journal of Communication Inquiry 17(2): 5-22.

Fairclough, N. L. (2010) Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language (2nd edn). Edinburgh: Pearson Education.

Ferreira, R. and Henk, D. (2009) ‘Operationalizing Human Security in South Africa’. Armed Forces & Society 35(3): 501-525.

Figenschou, T. (2011) ‘Suffering up close: The strategic construction of mediated suffering on Al Jazeera English’. International Journal of Communication 5(21): 233-253. [Online] Available from: [Accessed March 20th, 2015].

Franks, S. (2013) Reporting Disasters: Famine, Aid, Politics and the Media. London: C. Hurst & Co.

Freedman, D. and Thussu, D. (2012) Media and Terrorism: Global Perspectives. London: Sage Publications.

Frère, M-S. (2009) ‘After the hate media: regulation in the DRC, Burundi and Rwanda’. Global Media and Communication 5(3): 327-352.

Gamson, W. A. (1992) ‘Media Images and the Social Construction of Reality’. Annual Review of Sociology 18, 373-393.

Gerth, M. and Siegert, G. (2012) ‘Patterns of Consistence and Constriction: How News Media Frame the Coverage of Direct Democratic Campaigns’. American Behavioral Scientist 56(3): 279-299.

Gould, L. (2014) ‘The politics of portrayal in violent conflict: The case of the Kony 2012 Campaign’. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 39(4): 207-230.

Griffin, M. (2010) ‘Media images of war’. Media, War & Conflict 3(1): 7-41.

Hardin, L. (2012) ‘Kony 2012 in review’. Journal of Human Rights Practice 4(3): 461-462.

Hawk, B. (1992) Africa’s Media Image. New York, NY: Praeger.

Hawkins, V. (2011) ‘Media selectivity and the other side of the CNN effect: the consequences of not paying attention to conflict’. Media, War & Conflict 4(1): 55-68.

Ibelema, M. (2014) ‘Tribal Fixation” and Africa’s Otherness: Changes and Resilience in News Coverage’. Journalism & Communication Monographs 16(3): 162-217.

Joseph, T. (2014) ‘Mediating War and Peace: Mass Media and International Conflict’. India Quarterly 70(3): 225-240.

Kakamba, P. (2010) ‘Heart of Darkness: Current images of the DRC and their theoretical underpinnings’. Anthropological Theory 10(3): 265-301.

Kellner, D. (2003) Media culture and the triumph of the spectacle. London: Routledge.

Kennedy, D. (2009) ‘Selling the Distant Other: Humanitarianism and Imagery: Ethical Dilemmas of Humanitarian Action’. Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, February [Online] Available from: [Accessed April 16th, 2015].

Kenney, K. (1994) ‘Images of Africa in news magazines: Is there a black perspective?’ Gazette 54, 61-85.

Khadiagala, G. M. (ed) (2006) Security Dynamics in Africa’s Great Lakes Region. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Reinner.

Kligler-Vilenchik, N. and Kjerstin, T. (2015) ‘Good citizenship as a frame contest: Kony2012, memes, and critiques of the networked citizen’. New Media & Society, 1-9.

Karniel, Y., Lavie-Dinur, A., Azran, T. (2015) ‘Broadcast coverage of Gaddafi’s final hours in images and headlines: A brutal lynch or the desired death of a terrorist?’. International Communication Gazette 77(2): 171-188.

Konstantinidou, C. (2008) ‘The spectacle of suffering and death: the photographic representation of war in Greek newspapers’. Visual Communication 7(2): 143-169.

Krabill, R. (2012) ‘American sentimentalism and the production of global citizens’. Contexts 11(4): 52-54.

Kyle, D. G. (1998) Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Law, R. (ed) (2015) The Routledge History of Terrorism. New York, NY: Routledge.

Leeuwen, V. M. (2008) ‘Imagining the Great Lakes Region: Discourses and Practices of Civil Society Regional Approaches for Peacebuilding in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo’. The Journal of Modern African Studies 46(3): 393-426.

Majtenyi, C. (1998) ‘Insecurity in Northern Uganda: Are People Being Given the Protection They Deserve?’ Refuge 17(4): 22-26.

Mazzoleni, G. and Schulz, W. (1999) ‘Mediatization” of Politics: A Challenge for Democracy?’ Political Communication 16(3): 247-261.

Mellor, N. (2009) ‘War as a moral discourse’. The International Communication Gazette 71(5): 409-427.

Nothias, T. (2014). ‘Rising, hopeful, new: visualizing Africa in the age of globalization’. Visual Communication 13(3): 323-339.

Murdie, A. and Webeck, S. (2015) ‘Responding to the call: Human Security INGOs and Countries with a History of Civil War’. International Political Science Review 36(1): 3-19.

Myers, G., Klak, T. and Koehl, T. (1996) ‘The inscription of difference: news coverage of the conflicts in Rwanda and Bosnia’. Political Geography 15(1): 21-46.

Nuruzzaman, M. (2006) ‘Paradigms in Conflict: The Contested Claims of Human Insecurity’. Cooperation and Conflict 41(3): 285-303.

Onguny, P. (2012) ‘Exploring the Dilemmas of Peace in the East African Community (E.A.C.): Implications of the 2007-08 Conflicts in Kenya’. Harvard Africa Policy Journal, 10th Edition, Spring. [Online] Available from: [Accessed February 11th, 2015].

Orgad, S. and Seu, B. (2014) ‘Intimacy at a distance in humanitarian communication’. Media, Culture & Society 36(7): 916-934.

Sontag, S. (2003). Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Scott, M. (2013) ‘The ironic spectator: Solidarity in the age of posthumanitarianism’. Critical Discourse Studies 10(3): 344-346.

Thompson, A. (2007) The Media and the Rwandan Genocide. London: Pluto Press.

Vicente, P. N. (2013) ‘Foreign correspondent from sub-Saharan Africa: An evolving communicational paradigm shift’. New African Communication 3(2): 13-35.

Von Engelhardt, J. and Jansz, J. (2014) ‘Challenging humanitarian communication: An empirical exploration of Kony 2012’. International Communication Gazette 76(6): 464-484.

Zelizer B (2010) About to Die: How News Images Move the Public. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Journal of Media Critiques [JMC]

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.