Representation of Crime and Justice in State media: The Case of the Ethiopian Television’s Police Program

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Addis Ababa University


The purpose of this study was examining ETV’s representation of crime and justice in its Police Program. The study was situated within a broader theoretical paradigm of cultural studies but was specifically informed by theories of representation, semiotic, and Marxist theory of Ideology. In order to address the research questions posed, a qualitative methodological approach was employed. What is more, informed by semiotic and Marxist analytical approaches, textual analytic method was also used. In order to augment the textual data, interviews were conducted with producers of the Police Program. Textual analysis was conducted on twelve (12) weekly programs transmitted via ETV during a seven (7) - month period. The study revealed that the news narratives of ETV’s Police Program constructed the image of criminals, victims, police/policing, and courtroom differently to its viewers. Criminals were portrayed as villains bent on inflicting heinous act against innocent victims in order to achieve their premeditated goals. Often times, they were identified through their pictures where the police were said to be pursuing them in order to arrest them. When arrested, they were often portrayed as powerless subjects paraded in front of judges in the courtroom, demonstrating the power of the institution of policing or the law enforcement bodies as well as representing the court as the ultimate dispenser of justice. In so doing, the news narratives delegitimized crime and criminality whereas it legitimized the institution of policing and the justice system in the eyes of the public. With respect to the packaging of news narratives about the victims, the police program used graphic images of body injuries, fresh wounds and medical treatments the victims were iv undergoing in order to evoke public sympathy for the victims, on one hand, and induce moral outrage against the perpetrators, on the other. The ubiquitous portrayal of the images of police and policing in the news stories and the routinizing of their activities also served the ideological function of the institution in the sense of helping the public take for granted the institutional role of the police/policing in the society and see it commonsensical; in so doing, it bestowed legitimacy to community policing as an institutional response for the control of crime and criminality. Owing to its wielding of institutional power, in the news narratives, the police served as news sources, defined the news value, and framed the stories in a way that favored their worldview. As a result, the portrayals became susceptible to stereotyping of the subjects based on gender, age and class of criminals and victims.



Crime and Justice in State media