Georgina Holmes


At the time of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the BBC’s late-night political dis- cussion program Newsnight was one of the few media political spheres within which representatives of the British government, opposition parties, the United Nations, and international non-governmental organizations could comment on British foreign policy. Since 1994 the British media have been charged with fail- ing to report genocide; yet a focus on print media has created a void in under- standing how BBC’s Newsnight covered events. The present article analyzes Newsnight reporting between 6 April 1994 and 30 September 1994 and reveals that the BBC framed the genocide in a specific way until 31 July 1994. A com- parative reading between the discourse of presenters, guests, and the news reports filed by journalists reveals that, despite a stack of media evidence that genocide was taking place, no representatives of the British government or opposition parties were interviewed on the role of the UK as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and signatory of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide from April to the end of July. Rather, a focus on the stateless ‘‘international community’’ and the failings of UN bureau- cracy, the timing of debates, and the presenters’ refusal to use the word ‘‘genocide’’ when guests and journalists did reveal that Newsnight failed to hold British politicians to account.