robertogreco + paris + media   1

Media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and the Baga massacre: a study in contrasts
"There are many reasons why the attacks on targets in Paris have received vastly more media attention than the attacks in Baga.

Paris is a highly connected global city with thousands of working journalists, while Baga is isolated, difficult and dangerous to reach. The attacks on Charlie Hebdo targeted journalists, and it’s understandable that journalists would cover the death of their comrades. The attacks in Paris were a shock and a surprise, while deaths at the hands of Boko Haram have become distressingly common in an insurgency that has claimed over 10,000 lives since 2009.

The details of the Baga attacks, where civilians fled a marauding army into the swamps of Lake Chad, where they faced attacks from hippos, are almost impossible for audiences in developed nations to empathize with.

By contrast it’s tragically easy for most North Americans and Europeans to imagine terrorists striking in their cities.

The net effect: the attacks in Baga and Maiduguri seem impossibly distant, while the attacks in Paris seem local, relevant and pressing even to people equidistant from the two situations.

In part, it’s hard to imagine events in Nigeria because we encounter so little African news in general.

Dearth of African news impacts public debate

Media Cloud, a tool developed at MIT’s Center for Civic Media and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society measures comparative attention to topics and locations in different segments of the news media.

A study we conducted in April 2014 suggests that media outlets publish three to ten times as many stories about France than about Nigeria. This disparity is striking as Nigeria’s population (estimated at 173 million) is almost three times the size of France’s population (66 million).

There’s bad news for those hoping online media will change existing patterns of media attention: while broadcast news outlets ran 3.2 times as many stories about France as about Nigeria, online media outlets published more than ten times as many French as Nigerian stories (10.4 to be precise).

We tend to read about countries like Nigeria only when they are in crisis, from terrorist attack or epidemics like Ebola. Despite the shocking magnitude of the attacks in Baga, the story can feel predictable, as the news we get from Nigeria is generally bad news.

If the attacks in Nigeria feel like they are happening somewhere incomprehensibly far away, those in Paris feel close to home, and many commentators have reflected on the tragedy in Paris as a result."



"Most victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslim: between 82 and 97%, according to a study from the US National Counter Terrorism Center.

Attacks like the one on Paris are shocking, visible and rare, while attacks on Baga are common (though the scale of the Baga attack is unprecedented.)

When we understand extremist violence as attacks on urban, developed, symbolic targets, we’re missing a much broader, messier picture, where religious extremism blends with political struggles and where the victims are usually anonymous, uncelebrated and forgotten.

We miss the point that Islamic extremists are at war with other Muslims, that the source of terror is not a religion of 1.6 billion people, but a perverse, political interpretation held by a disenchanted few.

It’s right to mourn those killed in Paris, to celebrate the city’s resilience and to honor the heroes. But if we fail to mourn and to understand Baga as well, we see a picture of terrorism that’s simple, clear and deeply inaccurate."
ethanzuckerman  2015  bokoharam  media  charliehebdo  paris  france  nigeria  terrorism  protest  protests  islam  islamophobia  journalism  #JeSuisCharlieHebdo  #JeSuisCharlie 
january 2015 by robertogreco

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