The Media and Terrorism: Editorial Cartoons, Framing and Legitimacy in the Kenyan Press, 1998-2008


Dr. Duncan Omanga

Research Area:


One of the key issues that re-emerged from terrorist attacks in Kenya and the US was the role and effects of mass media coverage on terrorism, specifically cartoons. Since the September 11th attacks in the, and the August 7th terror attacks in Kenya the relationship between the media and terrorism has come under close scrutiny. There has been a persistent feeling that the relationship is symbiotic especially in the electronic media and parts of the press. However, the role of the editorial cartoon to provide insight into how the media has framed the terror debate has largely been ignored. As satire, the power of cartoons and influence lie in their ability to excuse opinions too offensive, socially unacceptable or politically dangerous to be voiced in conventional discourse.

This study seeks to investigate how the print media has framed terrorism and the war against terror in Kenya’s editorial cartoons and the subsequent meanings generated out of editorial cartoons on terrorism. Using ‘frames’ the study probes the media’s role in representing terrorism, and whether the subsequent portrayals legitimize or illegitimize terrorism. Also the study investigates how the media connotes a binary image of opposites and the subsequent appeals framed through such depictions. Further, the study attempts to identify and establish the role of the underlying ideologies found in the media of editorial cartoons on terrorism in Kenya.