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This article discusses the coverage and portrayal of violent attacks against people with albinism, in Swahili and English news media in Tanzania between 2008 and 2012. Violence in the Great Lakes district of East and Central Africa surrounding Lake Victoria appears to be driven by traditional ‘witch doctors’ and carried out by contract killers to meet a market for albino body parts, in a context of superstitious beliefs about albinism, economic inequity and continued poverty. A content analysis revealed that media coverage of the violent attacks was most commonly framed in terms of criminal activity and shameful cultural practices—reflecting sourcing from court and police reports and politicians’ statements—but also as a socio-economic phenomenon and an issue of human rights. These interpretative frames highlight the complexity of the violence, the debate over its causes, and the need for multiple levels of solution. Although the violent attacks are seen as shameful, Tanzanian media provides public space for people to debate and shape knowledge about the impact of cultural and economic development on disadvantaged persons with albinism. This article commends the value of further interdisciplinary and international research to understand and respond to similar phenomena affecting vulnerable groups throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access