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Questioning the Kibera Discourse: Articulating Representations and Lived Experience in a Nairobi Slum
Unformatted Document Text:  KIBERA DISCOURSE 22 expressed frustration over Kenyan media coverage: “they always talk about bad things in Kibera, so even if you convince them that Kibera is good, they are always on the negative side of Kibera” (I03). Several mentioned that Kenyan media focuses specifically on the bad things happening in the community, such as violence, crime, or the uprooting of the railway. While one woman noted that some coverage is positive, she felt most of it is negative: “there are those who speak good of us, but the majority air out what is evil about Kibera” (I26). A 24-year-old man who had spent his entire life in Kibera argued that Kenyan media overstate Kibera’s problems because negativity sells: “media market things on negativity, so . . . media always sensationalize the negativity of Kibera to the public” (I11). One respondent noted that Kenyan media will use old footage of Kibera when talking about the present. While these things (e.g. the post-election violence) happened, he said by showing such clips, Kenyan media are ignoring the progress made in the community. Several felt Kenyan media provided too little coverage of Kibera and only focus on Kibera “just when they don’t have anything else to tell” (I28). Also, a number of residents expressed frustration that Kenyan media did not report on the positive things happening in the community. As one 22-year-old man stated, “the positive things in Kibera are more than the negatives, and they only concentrate on those negatives” (I16). Similarly, another resident claimed, “I’ve never even heard a true statement about the positive things that happen in Kibera” (I11). Most residents see their lives in Kibera as complex and filled with positive experiences as well as struggles and hardships. But they don’t see this complexity reflected in media coverage. Because of this, residents felt Kenyan media does not give the “full information” (I15). Respondents also offered suggestions for how Kenyan media can improve their coverage of Kibera. A few mentioned specific stories the media could report on (e.g. development projects and school programs) that would result in more rounded coverage of Kibera. But several

Authors: Ekdale, Brian.
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KIBERA DISCOURSE
 22 
expressed frustration over Kenyan media coverage: “they always talk about bad things in Kibera, 
so even if you convince them that Kibera is good, they are always on the negative side of 
Kibera” (I03). Several mentioned that Kenyan media focuses specifically on the bad things 
happening in the community, such as violence, crime, or the uprooting of the railway. While one 
woman noted that some coverage is positive, she felt most of it is negative: “there are those who 
speak good of us, but the majority air out what is evil about Kibera” (I26). A 24-year-old man 
who had spent his entire life in Kibera argued that Kenyan media overstate Kibera’s problems 
because negativity sells: “media market things on negativity, so . . . media always sensationalize 
the negativity of Kibera to the public” (I11). One respondent noted that Kenyan media will use 
old footage of Kibera when talking about the present. While these things (e.g. the post-election 
violence) happened, he said by showing such clips, Kenyan media are ignoring the progress 
made in the community. Several felt Kenyan media provided too little coverage of Kibera and 
only focus on Kibera “just when they don’t have anything else to tell” (I28). Also, a number of 
residents expressed frustration that Kenyan media did not report on the positive things happening 
in the community. As one 22-year-old man stated, “the positive things in Kibera are more than 
the negatives, and they only concentrate on those negatives” (I16). Similarly, another resident 
claimed, “I’ve never even heard a true statement about the positive things that happen in Kibera” 
(I11). Most residents see their lives in Kibera as complex and filled with positive experiences as 
well as struggles and hardships. But they don’t see this complexity reflected in media coverage. 
Because of this, residents felt Kenyan media does not give the “full information” (I15).
Respondents also offered suggestions for how Kenyan media can improve their coverage 
of Kibera. A few mentioned specific stories the media could report on (e.g. development projects 
and school programs) that would result in more rounded coverage of Kibera. But several 


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