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Utrecht Centre for Television in Transition


1 December 2014

Rob Leurs on covering genocide trials and the rhetoric on (the limitations of) being human

At this TViT seminar, Rob Leurs will give a presentation on his research into the covering of genocide trials in Iraq/The Netherlands, Rwanda, and Cambodia and the way the construction of media discourses demonstrates the rhetoric on (the limitations of) being human.

Most research on journalism adopts a classical approach towards the industrial apparatus of journalism. In contrast to these traditional perspectives this research proposes a cultural approach towards the ‘social circulation of meaning’ of news production. I shall focus on the production of news of genocide trials: the construction of media discourses of attempts to prosecute atrocities in Iraq, Rwanda and Cambodia that form a ‘mediapolis’ which demonstrate the rhetoric on (the limitations of) being human.

The central research question is how the interaction of journalists, representatives of the victims and representatives of the indicated criminals, from their specific discursive position, circulates meanings that form the basis of the international press coverage of genocide trials in Iraq (trial held in The Netherlands), Rwanda and Cambodia. Through a grounded theory analysis (Strauss & Corbin 1990) of and/or a discourse analytical approach (Laclau & Mouffe 1985) of interviews with journalists and the representatives of victims and indicated criminals the ‘Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen’ (the ‘contemporary of the non-contemporary’), or in other words, the role of media in the simultaneous existence of several forms of social conscience, becomes apparent.

The research will, by means of a two-fold comparative study (historico-geographical and analytical comparison), describe and analyse how the interaction occurs between the meaning that journalists, (representatives of) victims and indicated criminals construct in order to encode morality in the news on genocide trials. The aim is to produce innovative case studies on international news production that can stimulate the theoretical and methodological debate of a cultural approach on journalism.

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