Think Balkans, not Rwanda

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The last thing a massive news organisation should do is inflame an already volatile situation by using inflamatory words and phrases with deep historical significance. This is, I hope, why almost all of the mainstream media reporting on the current situation in Kenya has tended to steer clear of the ‘R’ word. It is interesting to see the BBC open up this lexical labyrinth on the Editor’s blog,

Presenter Mike Williams was questioning why, since the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer has used the phrase ‘ethnic cleansing’ to describe what’s happening in some Kenyan provinces, we should be coy about using the phrase ourselves… some who have spent many years working and reporting in Africa, think this is liberal guilt – ”Kenya is a tribal society. That terminology is perfectly accepted there, and we shouldn’t worry about using broadcasting it from London”… The question of direct comparisons with the Rwandan genocide has also been raised… the message seems to be “think Balkans rather than Rwanda” which is probably why the ‘ethnic cleansing’ phrase is tripping off the tongue. link