Sunday, January 11, 2015

Western News Priorities

Of course western news media are going to focus on their own backyard first and foremost, but in an age when many speak grandiosely of a globalized community and an equally globalized media, there is still a serious dichotomy between the way news in the West is presented against the "news from elsewhere".

There has of course been acres of coverage about the Charlie Hebdo killings and subsequent "three days of terror" in Paris that left 17 dead at the hands of five terrorists, three of whom have now been killed, one of whom is in custody and one on the run.  Yes, it's shocking in a peace-accustomed west that men and women going to work, or going shopping, may be gunned down in the middle of their mundane tasks.

But compare this with the reaction to Boko Haram's latest atrocity in Nigeria.  Battling for control of the town of Baga, 2,000 civilians are feared killed in the latest Boko Haram massacre.  2,000.  2,000 people trying to live normal lives, massacred for standing in the way of an extremist group's political ambitions.  And that figure has to be an estimate, because local agencies stopped trying to count the bodies from the carnage, and many were simply strewn in the nearby bush.  Most of the victims were elderly, or women, or children, apparently because they are the ones who can't run so fast when Boko Haram send their courageous fighters into the town in jeeps, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on the unarmed citizens.   And just to be clear, this is an organisation that is every bit as ruthless and danegrous as ISIL.

How many headlines did this generate in the same week as 17 people were killed in Paris?  None.  It is reported on some foreign news pages, but it doesn't feature today anywhere on the front page on the BBCs online site, or Al Jazeera's English language site, or Sky News' website.  To their credit, CNN does have it fairly near the top, but the distance between western deaths and 'elsewhere' deaths remains vast.  If our news organisations can't report prominently on the terrible activities of Boko Haram and other, similar groups operating across much of the globe, then we will remain shrouded in a cloud of ignorance about the onslaught of terrorism that occasionally leaks onto the western stage.  Our shock at Charlie Hebdo is partly due to our failure to see and understand the wider world.  Globalization is not noticeably enlarging our world-view it seems.  

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