Mar 1 2008

Rediscovering Somalia

Press downplays U.S. role in renewed crisis

Barundi peacekeepers prepare for deployment to Somalia--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/US Army Africa

After years of paying scant attention to Somalia, U.S. media suddenly rediscovered the war-torn African nation in 2006 when a coalition of Islamic courts and their affiliated militias imposed peace on feuding warlords and began enforcing religious law. A U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion soon loomed, and the Bush administration made the preferred story line clear. “The Council of Islamic Courts is now controlled by Al-Qaeda cell individuals, East Africa Al-Qaeda cell individuals,” announced Jendayi Frazer, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs (Voice of America News, 12/14/06). “The top layer of the courts are extremist to the core. They are […]

May 1 2007

Sidebar: Charity Cases

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to Bono, I Presume?] Even when it’s not an entertainment celebrity that brings the cameras to Africa, nearly as many TV news Africa stories are about Americans or other Westerners “making a difference” in Africa. Whether it’s a high-profile figure like Bill Gates fighting malaria (ABC, 10/31/05), a 12-year-old American boy raising money for AIDS orphans in Africa (NBC, 12/8/06) or the wife and daughter of an NFL football coach missing his big day in the Super Bowl to volunteer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ABC, 2/3/06), these segments tell the story […]

Jul 2 2004

Salih Booker on Sudan, Joanne Doroshow on Fahrenheit 9/11

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Once again media turn to a story in Africa only after it’s become a devastating humanitarian crisis. The violence, killing and internal displacement in western Sudan is being called a genocide. What’s the US role there and where is the press on this story? We’ll hear from Salih Booker of Africa Action. Also on the show: Michael Moore’s new film Fahrenheit 9/11 has garnered, along with big box office receipts, harsh criticism from mainstream journalists and the right, who accuse Moore and his film of everything from inaccuracy, to cheap shots, to having a […]

Jul 1 1994

As Rwanda Bled, Media Sat on Their Hands

Nyamata Memorial Site, Rwanda (cc photo: Fanny Schertzer/Wikimedia)

No one–least of all the US government–lifted a finger to stop the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans. And US media coverage played along with the Clinton administration’s policy of handwringing.

Nov 1 1993

The Selling of Savimbi

Book Review

The Cold War Guerilla: Jonas Savimbi, the U.S. Media and the Angolan War By Elaine Windrich (Greenwood Press) Elaine Windrich dedicates her book to “the Angolan vic­tims of the Reagan Doc­trine,” whose numbers con­tinue to escalate as “freedom fighter” Jonas Savimbi ravages the country after refusing to abide by the re­sults of a U.N.-organized election. Meanwhile the West looks the other way, after having armed him in the al­leged interest of “bringing the Angolan government to the bargaining table.” The Cold War Guerilla is about the selling of Savimbi to the U.S. public from 1976 through 1990, a joint effort […]

Jul 1 1993

South Africa: Hani Killing Swells Black Anger, but Press Sees White Fears

White people kill black people--no big news. Black people threaten white people (or their property)--very big news indeed.

Chris Hani (SABC)

The assassination in April of African National Congress leader Chris Hani illustrated this truism yet again. While South African blacks reacted with rage and anguish to the killing of a popular and eloquent leader, U.S. media were more likely to respond: What will this mean for us white folks? For the murder of a major political figure—Hani was the top vote-getter on the ANC’s executive council, and widely considered a possible successor to Nelson Mandela—coverage was remark­ably fixated on the effect it would have on political negotiations between the ANC and the white government. “Death of Popular Figure Raises Fear […]

Mar 1 1993

Somalia: The L.A. Metaphor

The locale may have been on the other side of the world, but the media language was straight outta of South Central. From George Bush’s warning about “armed gangs ripping off their own people” to media tales of a land of drug-crazed looters, we were urged to see the U.S. intervention in Somalia as a replay of the L.A. riots. Certainly, for all that the media repeated that this was a “humanitarian mission,” there was a great deal of focus on the “enemy.” Time magazine (12/14/92) head­lined its report “Taking on the Thugs,” with a two-page photo of armed Somalis […]

Mar 1 1993

Tragedy Made Simple

Media on the Somalia intervention

The first question national media need to ask themselves about Somalia is: Where were we? In January 1991, six leading relief agencies warned that 20 million people in Africa faced starvation unless food aid was forthcoming–mainly in Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. (See Hunger in Africa — A Story Still Untold, Extra! September 1992) In the fall of 1991, U.N. officials estimated that 4.5 million Somalis faced grave food shortages. In all of 1991, Somalia got three minutes of attention on the three evening network news shows. From January to June 1992, Somalia got 11 minutes (Tyndall Report, cited in Inter […]