Media reporting of war crimes trials and civil society responses in post-conflict Sierra Leone
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AbstractThis study, which seeks to contribute to the shared-body of knowledge on media and war crimes jurisprudence, gauges the impact of the media’s coverage of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) and Charles Taylor trials conducted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on the functionality of civil society organizations (CSOs) in promoting transitional (post-conflict) justice and democratic legitimacy in Sierra Leone. The media’s impact is gauged by contextualizing the stimulus-response paradigm in the behavioral sciences. Thus, media contents are rationalized as stimuli and the perceptions of CSOs’ representatives on the media’s coverage of the trials are deemed to be their responses. The study adopts contents (framing) and discourse analyses and semi-structured interviews to analyse the publications of the selected media (For Di People, Standard Times and Awoko) in Sierra Leone. The responses to such contents are theoretically explained with the aid of the structured interpretative and post-modernistic response approaches to media contents. And, methodologically, CSOs’ representatives’ responses to the media’s contents are elicited by ethnographic surveys (group discussions) conducted across the country. The findings from the contents and discourse analyses, semi-structured interviews and ethnographic surveys are triangulated to establish how the media’s coverage of the two trials impacted CSOs’ representatives’ perceptions on post-conflict justice and democratic legitimacy in Sierra Leone. To test the validity and reliability of the findings from the ethnographic surveys, four hundred (400) questionnaires, one hundred (100) for each of the four regions (East, South, North and Western Area) of Sierra Leone, were administered to barristers, civil/public servants, civil society activists, media practitioners, students etc. The findings, which reflected the perceptions of people from large swathe of opinions in Sierra Leone, appeared to have dovetailed with those of the CSOs’ representatives across the country. The study established that the media’s coverage of the CDF trial appeared to have been tainted with ethno-regional prejudices, and seemed to be ‘a continuation of war by other means’. However, the focus groups perceived the media reporting as having a positive effect on the pursuit of post-conflict justice, good governance and democratic accountability in Sierra Leone. The coverage of the Charles Taylor trial appeared to have been devoid of ethno-regional prejudices, but, in the view of the CSOs, seemed to have been coloured by lenses of patriotism and nationalism.
CitationBinneh-Kamara, A. (2015) 'Media Reporting of War Crimes Trials and Civil Society Responses in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone' PhD Thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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