A “Hotbed” of Digital Empowerment? Media Criticism in Kenya Between Playful Engagement and Co-Option1

Nothias, Toussaint; Cheruiyot, David
International Journal of Communication

"Much has been written about the production and textual features of international media
portrayals of Africa, but very little about how audiences on the continent perceive such
coverage. This study fills this gap by investigating a campaign led by Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) to challenge CNN’s portrayals of their country. Our analysis of the most prominent tweets, images, and users reveals the various strategies adopted by Kenyan audiences to criticize Western representations. This criticism, we argue, constitutes a form of
metajournalistic discourse, which should not be reduced to a single story of digital
empowerment. While contesting long-standing stereotypes and inequalities shaping global
media narratives, this criticism recreates an image of Kenya aligned with a corporate
project of nation branding that uplifts the voices and perspectives of digitally connected
Nairobi-based elites. In response, we call for greater consideration of the interplay of global
and local power relations in which such digital practices are embedded."