CHILDREN ACCUSED OF PRACTICING WITCHCRAFT IN AKWA IBOM, NIGERIA: A QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS OF ONLINE NEWS MEDIA
This essay analyzes online news media reactions to the labeling and stigmatizing of children as witches in Eket, within the state of Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. The paper was triggered by Governor Godswill Akpabio’s August 30, 2010, appearance on CNN, during which he stated that the situation of these stigmatized children is exaggerated. This essay seeks to understand what perspectives the online news media created in response to Akpabio's interview. Three themes - the children accused, the behavior of the gatekeepers (i.e., among others, parents, guardians, religious leaders, and government officials), and the practice of witchcraft - emerge from the data. The results reveal the following: (a) the Governor is defensive and in denial, (b) the involved pastors are opportunists, and (c) the accused children are abandoned, maltreated, and sometimes murdered. Results also show that none of the analyzed online news media specifically blame the parents of the accused children; rather they blame the Governor and pastors, and specifically Helen Ukpabio. Further analysis indicates that poverty is not necessarily the root of the problem as the Governor claims. The essay recommends acknowledgement of folk belief systems in the training of gatekeepers.
International Journal of Child, Youth & Family Studies
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