Media and Child Rights in Africa: Narrative Analysis of Child Rights in Kenyan Media

Media and Child Rights in Africa: Narrative Analysis of Child Rights in Kenyan Media

Ukaiko A. Bitrus-Ojiambo (St. Paul's University, Kenya) and Muthoni E. King'ori (Daystar University, Kenya)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0329-4.ch007


This chapter describes Kenyan media narratives and portrayals of children and their rights. The chapter examines how Kenyan media frame child rights stories. Through qualitative content analysis of child stories in selected Kenyan media platforms, the authors interrogated what these narratives tell us about how children and their rights are viewed and the implications of the media frames used. Findings showed that child rights stories are yet to receive the comprehensive coverage needed. The findings further indicated that Kenyan media framed the child in stereotypical and patriarchal ways with the voice of the child most times left out. In addition, many of the stories analysed were found to lack depth, context, and link to child rights. Some of the challenges that hamper effective media coverage include inadequate training on child rights reporting, lack of media desks tackling children stories, and insufficient knowledge on child rights.
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Global social structures have undergone fundamental changes. African countries have also been affected, willingly and / or unwilling, by global trends and treaties at various junctures in history. The global snapshot by mid-1970s is that 39 countries or a quarter of the world’s independent countries were democratic compared to two decades later when 66 percent had momentous societal transformations (Schwartzman, 1998, p. 159). The African media industry’s evolution took another turn in the 1990s and continues till the present time. At that time, many African state-controlled media were partially privatized, allowing for pluralization, or diversity of entrants and voices in the mediascape (Barber, 2009, p. 15; Ugangu, 2012). Those with access to media were still among the few; media owners were Western conglomerates or the minor urban elites (Goretti, 2009). These changes, particularly, liberalization, commercialization, democratization, and globalization, brought about structural shifts in media access, use, and depictions.

Children's rights, being human rights, are concerned with the prescribed ways that children are perceived by members of society, how those members relate with them, and protect them. Frames demonstrate the powerful role of media in shaping how audiences expect to see or hear an issue to make sense of it (Baran & Davis, 2009; King’ori & Bitrus-Ojiambo, 2016). Media is a socio-cultural institution that provides a social function for society (Collins, 1985). The stories produced influence society through frames or paradigms that reach the audience who consume this content as ‘truth’ due to the credibility of institutional authority (Lull, 2000). Such standardized presentations shape one’s views of a group, phenomenon or issue. The media provides a lens or mirror from which members of society can examine their cultural participation, worldview, and lives through narratives or stories.

As a democratic tool, media is assumed to live up to the ideals of giving citizens opportunities through information, representation, and participation (Jensen, 2002b; Foley, Hayes, & O'Neill (2012). It is argued, in this chapter, that although Kenyan media cover stories about children along a variety of topics, the quality of the reports are wanting (Internews Europe, 2014). Writing styles, time and space constraints, and lack of sense of duty limit media practice and hence forces a likely narrative structure in this mediascape. It is argued that media practitioners are driven by commercial interest, first and foremost, and that the media does not live up to its role and duty in providing a platform for children’s issues and rights to be understood within a rights framework.

Assumptions about media and media practice are that they present free and fair, objective information and tell society the ‘truth’. Media are a powerful democratic tool that can both articulate and / or mute perspectives, voices, and groups. In as much as they can be used for development, democracy, and nation building, the media can be used to sustain authoritarianism, to exploit and to exclude (Zaleza, 2009, p. 19).

Views about children are shaped by media through the stories that are told about them, the language that is used about them, and the images that are presented of them. Media narratives are not neutral, and are framed in certain ways, regardless of the intent. Media literacy needs to be addressed to not only include media use, but critical analysis of frames that are inherent in storytelling, political and ownership affiliations and positions of media owners, and distinct roles of media in society.

Chapter Objectives

The objectives of this chapter are:

  • 1.

    To examine how Kenyan media covered child rights stories between January and March 2019.

  • 2.

    To analyse the media frames used in the child rights stories covered by the Kenyan media between January and March 2019.

  • 3.

    To explore the implications of the media frames used in the child rights stories analysed.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Content Analysis: Methodology used to assess the content of the media texts as per qualitative content analysis methods. Coding of units of analysis were done before the assessment and discussion.

Narrative Analysis: A Qualitative method for analyzing the meanings derived from stories and images based on certain criteria.

Texts: Content and formats, cultural by-products, for this chapter, content of news in all platforms, includes media texts.

Journalistic Principles: Guidelines for professional behavior in the field of journalism including what makes news, writing structures, how to tell stories and present images of minors.

Media Framing: The structure of media narratives, either due to professional writing styles and / or (more so) due to the meanings that the stories themselves present due to the way the story is told and retold.

Mediascape: A blended concept from the terms media and landscape. It refers to the global and local environments, independently and in concert that have shaped media practice, outcomes, and organizations.

Legal Narratives: Story frame that is used in the legal profession to present a case and thereby a judgement.

Professionalism: The outcome of being able to operate by and adhere to guidelines of one’s profession and organization, especially the journalistic principles.

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