n Conflict Trends - Beheadings and the news media : why some conflict atrocities receive more coverage than others

Volume 2014, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


In August 2014, a captive of an extremist militant group was beheaded by his captors. Authorities in the victim's home country described the action as inhumane and an act of terrorism. The incident was covered by the local press and in brief by a select few international news agencies, but did not attract any degree of global media attention or signs of widespread indignation. The victim's name was George Mwita. He was a Kenyan truck driver, who had been abducted in Kenya by the Somali rebel group, Al-Shabaab. His death came three days after a similar incident that attracted massive media coverage worldwide, and that seemed to send shockwaves across the globe - the apparent beheading of United States (US) journalist James Foley by the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. In response to the latter case, US President Barack Obama stated that the incident was "an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world". Numerous heads of state, including those representing Australia, Gabon, Indonesia and Uruguay (just to name a few), made statements expressing their outrage at the killing. A large number of media corporations throughout the world also seemed to agree that this event had "shocked the world" - and their heavy coverage of the incident certainly contributed to ensuring that such shock was indeed widely felt. According to one poll, 94% of Americans had heard about the incident - a level of awareness higher than that for any other news event polled in the past five years.

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