Media and Mass Atrocity: the Rwanda Genocide and Beyond

Round table at Carleton University, Dec. 1-3, 2017

Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, in collaboration with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University, will host a major international round table – Media and Mass Atrocity: the Rwanda Genocide and Beyond – from Dec. 1-3, 2017, at Carleton.

As the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Rwanda genocide approaches, there is still much to learn about the nexus between mass atrocity and the media, an issue laid bare by the Rwanda tragedy. The roundtable will bring together an international network around the question of media and mass atrocity.

Members of the public are invited to join in this three-day event, to observe the proceedings, take part in question-and-answer sessions and interact with the members of the roundtable.

Those who are interested in attending the roundtable must register online in advance at the following site:

We also encourage you to follow along on the event’s Facebook page:

But participants must register in advance of the event. The full conference registration package includes a dinner and event opening ceremony on Friday, Dec. 1 (being held in the Atrium on the second floor of Richcraft Hall), as well as coffee breaks and lunches on Saturday, Dec. 2 and Sunday, Dec. 3 during the roundtable, being held in the third-floor conference room of the Residence Commons building at Carleton. The registration fee is being charged on a cost-recovery basis.

Event details:

As more information about the Rwanda genocide becomes available and as the narrative of those events continues to evolve, we still have much to learn from the important case study of Rwanda about the role of media in stimulating and responding to mass atrocities. In particular, in an era of social media saturation, near-ubiquitous mobile device penetration, and dramatic shifts in traditional news media, it is more important than ever to examine the nexus between media and mass atrocity. Advances in information and communications technology have reshaped the media landscape, rendering mass atrocities in distant countries more immediate and harder to ignore. And yet, a cohesive international response to mass atrocities has been elusive. Social media tools can be used to inform and engage, but also – in an echo of hate radio in Rwanda – can also be used to demonize opponents and mobilize extremism. With enhanced and relatively inexpensive communications technologies, ordinary citizens around the globe can capture live footage of human rights abuses before journalists have the chance, making social media itself a global actor, affecting the responses of national governments and international organizations to threats against peace and security and human rights. And yet, despite the extended reach that technological advances have afforded traditional news media and social media, the media impact in mass atrocity events is still a complex subject. Specifically, we are left with many troubling questions, still unresolved despite the passage of time since Rwanda. What role do media play in alerting the international community to looming mass atrocity? Could more informed and comprehensive coverage of mass atrocities mitigate or even halt the killing by sparking an international outcry? How do we assess the impact of hate media reporting in a killing spree? What is the role of the media in trying to encourage amelioration of the conflict or post-conflict reconciliation? What do the lessons of Rwanda mean now, in an age of communications so dramatically influenced by social media? Media and Mass Atrocity: the Rwanda Genocide and Beyond, grapples with these very questions.

Registration fee:

  • $125 –  institutional fee (if your registration costs are covered by your employer)
  • $100 – individual registration and seniors
  • $40 – student registration fee, for students currently registered in a post-secondary institution.

Tentative round table agenda (subject to change):

Friday, Dec. 1  

  • Roundtable Registration – Orientation, dinner and Opening Ceremony
  • Keynote: Paul Watson, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author 

Saturday, Dec. 2

  • 8:30-9:30                  Opening remarks: Roméo Dallaire, former commander, United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR)
  • 9:30-10:45                1st Panel:  Looking back at Rwanda: controlling the Narrative
    • Linda Melvern –  Investigative journalist (via Skype)
    • Filip Reyntjens –  University of Antwerp
  • 10:45-11:00             Break
  • 11:00-12:30             2nd Panel: Hate media
    • Frank Chalk – Montreal Institute of Genocide and Human Rights Studies
    • Theo Dolan – Peacetech Lab
  • 12:30-1:15                Lunch (Third floor – Residence Commons)
  • 1:15-2:45                  3rd Panel: International media coverage of genocide
    • Catherine Bond – World Bank (former foreign correspondent)
    • James Siguru – Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University
    • Simon Cottle – Communications, Human Security and Atrocity in Global Context Research Group, Cardiff University
  • 2:45  – 3:00               Break
  • 3:00  – 4:30               4th Panel: Rwanda – after the genocide Rwanda      
    • Anjan Sundaram – post-colonial journalism in Rwanda (via Skype)
    • Paul Rukesha – Rwanda Genocide Archive, Kigali Rwanda
    • Mark Frohardt – Internews
  • 4:30 – 5:45                5th Panel: Journalists and Mass Atrocity
    • Martha Steffens – School of Journalism, University of Missouri
    • Brett Popplewell – School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University
    • Lauren Kogen – Department of Media Studies & Production, Temple University (via Skype)
    • Mette Mortensen, University of Copenhagen, Department of Media, Cognition and Communication (via Skype)
  • 6 p.m.                       Private dinner for roundtable panelists

Sunday, Dec. 3

  • 8:30 – 10:00 6th panel – Social media – the new media actor    
    • Stephanie MacLellan – Centre for International Governance Innovation
    • Geoffrey York – Globe and Mail, Africa correspondent
    • Nick Monaco, Digital Intelligence Lab – social media disinformation
    • Nadia Hai – School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University
    • Yannick Veilleux-Lepage – University of St. Andrew’s
  •  10:00 – 10:15                      Break
  •  10:15 – 11:45                       7th panel: Echoes of Rwanda
    • Michael Petrou – 2017 Nieman fellow, Harvard University
    • Joachim Savelsberg – Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota
    • Alan Davis – Institute for War and Peace Reporting
    • Michelle Betz – Media consultant
  • 11:45 – 12:15                       LUNCH – (Third floor – Residence Commons)
  • 12:15 – 1:30              8th panel: Prevention
    • Steven Livingston – George Washington University
    • David Smith – Okapi Consulting
    • Bert Ingelaere – University of Antwerp
    • Rafal Rohozinski – SecDev
  • 1:30-2:30                Closing Plenary