Did Newsnight Miss the Story? A Survey of How the BBC's “Flagship Political Current Affairs Program” Reported Genocide and War in Rwanda between April and July 1994

Georgina Holmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At the time of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the BBC's late-night political discussion 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 failing to report genocide; yet a focus on print media has created a void in understanding 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 comparative 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 bureaucracy, 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-192
Number of pages18
JournalGenocide Studies and Prevention
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2011


  • genocide
  • War
  • Rwandan Genocide
  • BBC
  • British Government

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