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Bearing witness: practices of journalistic witnessing in South Sudan

Stupart, Richard (2020) Bearing witness: practices of journalistic witnessing in South Sudan. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores the practices and normative tensions of journalists reporting on conflict in South Sudan, based on a combination of semi-structured interviews with journalists based in Nairobi, Kampala and Juba, as well as ethnographic observation of an investigative reporting trip to the Malakal protection of civilians site in Upper Nile state. This thesis addresses two research questions, asking howjournalists’ practices are enabled and constrained in the context of South Sudan, and what normative tensions arise during their practices of journalism. To these questions, this thesis develops three arguments. In the first, I argue that risk functions as both a constraint to the practices of journalistsworking in South Sudan, as well as an element of the practice itself. It can afford journalists epistemic authority, material benefits and recognition as ‘professional’. I also provide an account of media intimidation in South Sudan as it appears to journalists, and some of the tactics adopted to cope with this. In the second, I argue for the importance of affect/emotion as an integral part of the practice of journalism in conflict. I make the case that emotion is not simply ‘picked up’ in the course of tiring and stressful work, but is an important part of how practices of journalism in South Sudan successfully proceed. I suggest that the case of journalists in South Sudan raises a number of important questions for research into affect/emotion in practices of news production more generally. Finally, I argue that normative tensions experienced by journalists as moral conflicts suggest that this journalism operates within a humanitarian imaginary of the type described by Lilie Chouliaraki. Perceived ‘obligations to report’ and discomfort over whether or not to help individuals in certain cases are, I argue, examples of journalists’ double-interpellation as both spectators and witnesses to the suffering of others.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Richard Stupart
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Willems, Wendy and Chouliaraki, Lilie

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