The world is currently at the mercy of gunmen, rebels or terrorists or whichever word you may choose to refer to instigators of violence. The question that I am posing today is, ‘what role do the media play in the escalation of this world spread violence?’
It is an undeniable fact that media plays an integral part in the world events, in other words the media in more ways than one helps shape society, hence its esteemed term ‘the fourth estate’. This basically means that the media is the fourth arm of government. If this does not sum up the influential power the media possess then nothing will.
To perhaps cite the importance of media, take for example the media coverage of the Rwandan Genocide. The world did not know the extent of the Rwandan internal conflict until it had already claimed at least 800 000 lives. The media because of several factors had not given the conflict the attention and because of this, the rest of the world had no clue as to how serious the situation in Rwanda was.
For nearly three weeks in April, after its first days had passed, the story of one of the 20th century's worst crimes had failed - in an age of global satellite broadcasting - to make the top of the TV news bulletins.
This was mainly due to the difficulty of access into Rwanda. But there were other issues. Firstly, most senior correspondents were down in South Africa covering the election of its first black president.
In comparison, this story seemed at first too obscure for them - an African blood feud. The problem was to be compounded by the appalling nature of the pictures themselves.
[Tom Giles BBC producer in Rwanda 1994
Now, the media with the power it has, has managed, in several instances (if not more) to change the course of circumstances leading to violence; violence which would not have occurred had it not been to the irresponsibility of some media reports. The media industry is intertwined with the political sphere not forgetting its business nature. Because of this the media industry’s crucial element of ‘objectivity’ tends to be overlooked. “News reporting is supposed to be object, but journalists are people, with feelings, opinions and preconceived ideas.”
Furthermore, the choice of sources or the angle of the story itself may sometimes make things seem different;
A clever choice of words can make things seem different than they are. For instance, during the Vietnam War, the Defense Department of the United States used many misleading phrases in news reports. Instead of ‘forces transfer of civilians’ they said ‘relocation’, and instead of ‘lies’ they said ‘elements in the credibility gap.’ By using carefully chosen phrases, the Defense Department made their war efforts seem less harmful to the people in the United States. They aren’t “vouchers”, they are “opportunity scholarships”; it’s not “tax cuts”, it’s “tax relief”. http://www.usfca.edu/fac-staff/boaz/pol326/feb12.htm
A recent example is what is happening in South Africa. A rather influential man, a King, King GOODWILL ZWELITHINI was quoted during a speech that would turn South Africa into a blood rain a few days later. It is not quite clear as to what the speech was about but the King was quoted saying that foreigners must return to their countries for whichever reasons he noted. And of course the media held on to those exact words, with headlines such as “FOREIGNERS MUST GO-KING GOODWILL ZWELITHINI.
The King has since cried foul that his utterances were completely taken out of context. Furthermore, the Minister of Small Business, Lindiwe Zulu was later quoted saying, foreign business owners in the townships cannot expect to coexist peacefully with local businesses unless they shared their acumen, some utterances that would further fuel South Africans’ anger towards foreign nationals.
Last but not least, in a bid to get to the bottom of the issue, the most locally watched programme, Africa 360 invited as part of its panel a local ‘business association representative’ with clear resentment towards foreign business owners, completely nullifying the programme’s intentions.
http://www.enca.com/media/video/africa-360-xenophobia-south-africa-myth-or-reality (Lindiwe Zulu interview)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWXHAfqb4pU[King Goodluck Zwelithini speech]
Do I blame the media for the escalation of the violence, yes, am I justified in doing so, I believe so! For a country with citizens that have known violence as the only way to get what you want, the media programming has been quite irresponsible. Of course Nelson Mandela ‘Utata Madiba’ as he is affectionately called preached reconciliation and peace but I guess the damage of Apartheid is deeper than that.
King GOODWILL ZWELITHINI
Credit: google images