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

Toussaint Nothias, David Cheruiyot


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.


digital empowerment, Kenya, media criticism, media representation, metajournalistic discourse, nation branding, Twitter

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