14 January 2019 | Story Charlene Stanley | Photo Anja Aucamp
Dr David Patrick
Dr David Patrick hopes that his book will encourage a more sceptical view of Western media’s portrayal of enocides.

A movie night 10 years ago featuring Hotel Rwanda, set a young Scottish Social Sciences scholar off on a disturbing journey of discovery about just how twisted the portrayal of genocide by Western media houses can be.

Dr David Patrick found the mass slaughter of Tutsis, directed by members of the Hutu majority government during a 100-day period in 1994, to be totally incomprehensible. It is believed that between 500 000 and two million people were killed.


Research interest

It sparked a research interest and has led to the recent publishing of his monograph: Reporting Genocide: Media, Mass Violence and Human Rights.

He found liberal democratic countries’ advocacy of human rights to be little more than positive-sounding rhetoric when it came to their reaction to genocide in the rest of the world. There was also a remarkable contrast between places like Bosnia and Rwanda in terms of overall news coverage, with Bosnia consistently receiving far more coverage than Rwanda.

“Given that the Rwandan genocide was far more destructive – both in terms of speed and scale – provides ample evidence of the importance placed on both geographical location and race in relation to setting the news agenda,” Dr Patrick says.


International Studies Group

He’s been coming to South Africa as part of the UFS International Studies Group under the leadership of Professor Ian Phimister since 2014.

“Being exposed to so many people from different countries has been incredibly enriching,” Dr Patrick says.

“I love the texture and vibrancy of the South African society and also the braaiing culture – seeing that it rains back in Scotland almost 300 days of the year!”

He’s found a happy home in the south of Bloemfontein with his wife Tamsin, a teacher of Academic English at the UFS, and their three dogs.


Effect of findings

He is sober about whether his book will help change the prevailing news agenda. “Media institutions are not really known for critical self-reflection,” he says.

“But I do hope that people who read my book will at least adopt a more sceptical view of Western media’s portrayal of genocides.”

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