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‘Nigeria as a country of interest in terrorism’: Newspaper framing of Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber

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Media coverage of the ‘War on Terror’ has generated different frameworks of understanding that have been shaped by meanings and images that emerged after September 11, 2001. These frameworks of meanings are routinely used to structure and contextualize news stories and events associated with terrorism. This article investigates news frames that four Nigerian newspapers applied to the coverage of an attempted suicide attack on a US-bound aircraft on Christmas Day in 2009. It analyses the newspapers’ interpretation of the aborted act of terrorism by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian man, which resulted in the United States categorizing Nigeria as a ‘country of interest in the context of terrorism’. The article outlines recurrent themes and issues that the newspapers primed for their audiences by interrogating a selection of editorial contents of the publications. It seeks to highlight how discursive fields in the coverage emphasized specific understanding of the event. The article argues that the constructed accounts of the foiled attack were framed and structured to create a distance between Abdulmutallab and his country and that the news frames the newspapers used narrowed public understanding of the significance of Abdulmutallab’s radicalization and its possible implications for Nigeria.

Keywords: Islamic extremism; Nigerian newspapers; framing; radicalization; terrorism; ‘War on Terror’

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Huddersfield

Publication date: 2012-04-27

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  • The Journal of African Media Studies (JAMS) is an interdisciplinary journal that provides a forum for debate on the historical and contemporary aspects of media and communication in Africa.
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