Barbaric mistakes: Western print media’s portrayal of “ethnic” conflicts
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This study addressed the question: “Does Western media framing of different actors in ethnic conflict influence the likelihood of intervention being advocated in the media?” In order to answer this question, this study used a content analysis of USA, UK and Australian print media, and explored the media framing of conflicts in Rwanda, Kosovo, and East Timor. The study examined newspaper articles prior to intervention and, using Piers Robinson’s media framing model (2000), measured the quantity of “empathetic” and “distancing” coverage in relation to suggestions for intervention. The results of this study show that simplified representations of these complex conflicts often lead to a dangerous polarisation in Western media. Ethnic conflicts are discussed either within a “barbaric” frame, where readers are presented with well-defined heroes, victims and villains and are encouraged to support intervention; or with a “native” narrative, where the situation is reported as a distant problem between “squabbling tribes”, and the media consumer is encouraged to support non-intervention.