Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Are we missing the point?

Today some unfortunate news about the death of a foreign journalist, Tim Hetherington, in Misurata was circulating endlessly on all social media sites. People were deeply saddened and were offering their condolences.

It was a bit too much if you ask me. No disrespect to Tim Hetherington or his family and friends, and may he rest in peace, but people die every day in Libya, especially in Misurata where he died.

There is an evident bias in every syllable of western journalism, or maybe even journalism in general. It seems the deaths of those reporting violence and those intervening are so much more significant.

To clarify my point I’ll give you some news headlines from today.

“Foreign journalist, Tim Hetherington, dies in Misurata.”

“MOD names British soldier who died in hospital after Afghanistan blast as Captain Lisa Jade.”

“200 dead and over 50,000 displaced in post-voting violence in Nigeria.”

“20 dead as protests are dispersed by security forces in Syria.”

“12 rebel death in besieged city of Misurata.” (a couple of days ago)

Do you see the difference between the death of a foreign entity and that of the locals? The worst part is that this is not the first time this happens; it has been going on ever since the invasion of Iraq.

American and British troops are always identified; even their ranks are pointed out. However, the millions of Iraqis and Afghans that have died since the break out of both wars are fused into the numbers on the headlines.

To be fair, some of the local people do get named; only, however, when they’re journalists or “activists”. What does that mean? What’s an activist? And why are they more important than all the rest of the people in the street campaigning for freedom? I mean at the end of the day they can all die with one bullet and are vulnerable to arrest and torture.

Libya’s case is by far the worst. NATO is clearly there to help out the rebels. The main people behind this conflict are the rebels fighting for their freedom. However, even their names are left out of news headlines. Then who the hell matters?

It just seems to me that if you’re not a registered activist (you can register at the Royal Activist Association for Activists (RAAA)*) or a journalist or a foreign soldier, you don’t really matter.

*Note: RAAA doesn’t exist.


omer said...

Good point man

Maha Al Magli said...

I feel that with this case in particular, you are looking at it in the wrong way. For starters the reason there is such a hype over the deaths of foreign reporters and aid workers in all countries other than the West is because it takes a lot of courage, strength and empathy hence it is viewed as such a commendable act. To go into a country that is not your own, to help people that are not your own and to report incidents that are not your own is a noble thing. For example, I would like for you to name me any arab that has gone to Palestine to help...I'll wait. And yet you get youths from all over the Western world journeying to Gaza to offer whatever they can to assist. I feel that this deserves extra credit because these are people who are leaving the comfort of their satisfying lives behind to suffer with everyone else. A great example is Vittorio, the Italian aid worker that recently died in Palestine.
The other point, is that in Middle Eastern, Asian and African news broadcasts, the names of Western martyrs is never presented. Rather the names that are heard are of the Arab, Asian and African martyrs. So I guess what I'm trying to say is to each their own, everyone cares about who they can relate to and who they feel they have a bigger connection with.

Jabi said...

Agree with Maha. But I also agree with moez when we consider the Palestinian/Zionist conflict. In the west you get headlines of the captured Israeli soldier by Hamas, Shalit, yet no one or very rarely anyone considers the prisoners in the thousands of Palestinian men, women and children in Zionist prisons. When one Zionist Israel person dies, the entire western media rushes to show the sorrow and pain the families are enduring, and the tragic story of how they died, yet when Palestinians die, again, its just a number.

Moez Ali said...

Sorry Maha I have to disagree.
The point you're trying to make is exactly what is wrong with journalism. So what if journalists go to conflict zones and report wars and put themselves in danger? It's their job, even if it's not, they choose to be in which ever conflict-ridden part of the world they're in. The fact that you're looking at it from the point of view of journalists being brave and risking their lives to report the stories actually dissolves the conflict, its causes and the lives it claims. The spotlight moves from the revolutionaries to the "talented, brave, courageous journalist". If tens of people die every day then one journalist death shouldn't be as significant. People fighting for their freedom definitely trumps covering a story.

The Italian aid worker who died in Palestine too was over hyped. This is an implicit declaration that people who come from outside to help the unfortunate are to more important. If it was a Palestinian that got kidnapped and killed that day you wouldn't even have heard about it. Trying to help a suffering people doesn't make you more human than those going through the suffering every single day.