Tribal politics, tribal press, plural contexts? Pragmatic analysis of news discourse on Kenya’s crisis


  • Roel Coesemans University of Leuven - Thomas More College Antwerp, Belgium


This paper studies from a linguistic-pragmatic perspective the construction of potentially ideological meanings related to journalistic choice-making practices in the contexts of local and foreign news reporting against the background of the globalization of news. In particular, it examines the discourse of hard news reports about Kenya’s post-election crisis in the national newspapers Daily Nation and The Standard as compared to thematically-related foreign correspondence from The Independent and The Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post. By means of a combined methodology, comprising a quantitative content analysis, a qualitative discourse analysis and ethnographic fieldwork, two frames of meaning are identified: a tribal and a socio-political frame. From an international perspective, American and British newspapers primarily ethnicized the events, while they tended to be politicized in the local Kenyan press. The differences in language use can be partly explained by contextual (political, social and pragmatic) factors. Thus the interpretive results can be supported, refined or nuanced by information from ethnographic fieldwork, which also allows us to take both global and local journalistic voices into account.