As someone who hopes to pursue a career in media, I believe they should be held to a high degree of accountability. The majority of the information we are exposed to is filtered through the media. We, ourselves cannot get on a plane on a random Wednesday and fly around the world to get the scoop about international affairs. It is the media’s job to inform us with unbiased facts, to their best of their abilities what is important and where our attention should be focused.
How does this relate to genocide and refugees? I am (let’s give myself some credit and say was) a relatively uninformed citizen. I rely on the media to let me know what is going in this country as well as worldwide. And in my opinion, they have fallen short of doing so in regards to recent genocides and refugee situations.
I read this pretty incredible news series that discusses domestic events in the way the media portrays foreign affairs. It is gold. My point of this being, the media sensationalizes everything and in the midst of this framing, we lose a lot of relevant details and facts that could help clarify some things.
The best example of this is the fact when a genocide occurs in a country in Africa, it is portrayed as though that is something that just happens over there. A disease. An outbreak that they haven’t quite found the vaccine for. Just one of those things poor, impoverished countries in Africa struggle with, you know?
Mass killings of innocent people are not things that “just happen”. Brigham & Noland, 2014 illustrate this point more fluently than I probably can. But basically, when the media attributes these atrocities to an area, rather than a group of people, it diminishes the victims that are suffering while essentially letting the perpetrators off the hook.
On another note, the media also has the power to put pressure on government and activist groups to do something amid international (and domestic) crisis. In order for the media to accurately cover stories with this kind of depth, it requires extensive research on the part of the journalist; not just re-wording what has been given to them by the government or other news sources.
Alan Kuperman in the International Press Institute speaks of the genocide committed by the Hutus on the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994:
Western media blame the international community for not intervening quickly, but the media must share blame for not immediately recognizing the extent of the carnage and mobilizing world attention to it.
The lack of awareness and misplaced blame is not just a media problem; it is a societal problem. Doing our homework when it comes to issues such as these is the most powerful tool not just in advocacy, but in education.
-Kelli Anne Louthan