Media and Mass Atrocity: the Rwanda Genocide and Beyond

The rundown

The School of Journalism and Communication is hosting a major international round table from Dec. 1-3 called Media and Mass Atrocity: the Rwanda Genocide and Beyond. More than two dozen international experts from around the world will gather to discuss the nexus between media and mass atrocity. Among the keynote speakers will be former UN commander in Rwanda, Roméo Dallaire, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Paul Watson. We would like to create opportunities for as many Carleton students as possible to participate in this event and have the opportunity to interact with these international experts. We also want to leverage our ability to reach a wider audience through social media channels and by disseminating the results of this round table as widely as possible. As the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Rwanda genocide approaches, there is still much to learn about the nexus between mass atrocity and the media, an issue laid bare by the Rwanda tragedy. The roundtable will bring together an international network around the question of media and mass atrocity. Despite the extended reach that technological advances have afforded traditional news media and social media, the media impact in mass atrocity events is still a complex subject. We are left with many troubling questions, still unresolved despite the passage of time since Rwanda. What role do media play in alerting the international community to looming mass atrocity? Could more informed and comprehensive coverage of mass atrocities mitigate or even halt the killing by sparking an international outcry? How do we assess the impact of hate media reporting in a killing spree? What is the role of the media in trying to encourage amelioration of the conflict or post-conflict reconciliation? What do the lessons of Rwanda mean now, in an age of communications so dramatically influenced by social media? Media and Mass Atrocity: the Rwanda Genocide and Beyond, grapples with these very questions.

Background

Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, in collaboration with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University, will host a major international round table – Media and Mass Atrocity: the Rwanda Genocide and Beyond – from Dec. 1-3, 2017, at Carleton. As more information about the Rwanda genocide becomes available and as the narrative of those events continues to evolve, we still have much to learn from the important case study of Rwanda about the role of media in stimulating and responding to mass atrocities. In particular, in an era of social media saturation, near-ubiquitous mobile device penetration, and dramatic shifts in traditional news media, it is more important than ever to examine the nexus between media and mass atrocity. Advances in information and communications technology have reshaped the media landscape, rendering mass atrocities in distant countries more immediate and harder to ignore. And yet, a cohesive international response to mass atrocities has been elusive. Social media tools can be used to inform and engage, but also – in an echo of hate radio in Rwanda – can also be used to demonize opponents and mobilize extremism. With enhanced and relatively inexpensive communications technologies, ordinary citizens around the globe can capture live footage of human rights abuses before journalists have the chance, making social media itself a global actor, affecting the responses of national governments and international organizations to threats against peace and security and human rights.

Rollout

We are seeking to raise $5,000 that would be earmarked to offset the cost of registration in the three-day round table by Carleton University students. While there is a $40 online registration fee for students, the actual cost to organizers per participant for this event is closer to $75. We would dedicate funds raised to offsetting student registrations. Additional funds would be used to leverage the maximum benefit from the round table’s social media reach.

Impact

Carleton students in such programs as Journalism and Communication, African Studies, BGins, Political Science, Human Rights and other fields would benefit directly from participating in this event. In addition, we would use additional funds for conference-related costs, such as maximizing the social media impact of the round table event.

It is our hope that on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide, we can once again foster more thoughtful deliberation on the role of media in mass atrocity events.