Darfur and the Congo: Why the Media Disparity?
Darfur and the Congo are frequently contrasted as African crises that receive quite disparate attention from the U.S. and Europe. With a much lower death toll, why does Darfur get such a brighter spotlight? As was recently pointed out on this blog, media took some time to start covering Darfur; while events in Africa never get the U.S. corporate media attention that they deserve, Darfur has managed to garner regular coverage, yet Congo remains essentially invisible. In the past five years, CBS Evening News ran one single segment on the country. The Congo was only mentioned on Fox News Special Report during a brief period in 2005, when peacekeepers for the U.N., a perennial Fox villain, were accused of sexual abuse on duty there. And the Congo coverage viewers saw on CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s 360 more likely than not invoked endangered gorillas or Angelina Jolie.
In a new article for FAIR’s magazine, Extra!, I analyze U.S. media coverage of the two crises and the various factors that influence that coverage, landing ultimately on the primary consideration: U.S. political interests.
Julie Hollar is the managing editor of Extra!, the magazine of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR).
One of the main justifications for the media and advocacy attention to Darfur is that the situation there has been labelled “genocide.” But we should not overlook the fact that one of the reasons why activists called it genocide in the first place was to generate media attention, and the resulting policy attention in the form of pressure for military intervention and funds for humanitarian relief. The argument can quite easily become circular.
In this regard, read the remarks by John Prendergast of ENOUGH quoted by Ed Sanders of the Los Angeles Times a few days ago. Prendergast said, “invocation of that word saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Absent that, it would have been harder to get this on the radar screen.” Then, according to Sanders, “he dismissed the is-it-or-isn’t-it controversy as legal semantics. ‘Well-meaning scholars can disagree, but the debate is a crushing diversion from what we need to do to find a solution,’ he said.”
It would be most useful if people commenting on the media disparity had a clearer statement of why they thought the disparity mattered in terms of outcomes. And why the focus on the U.S.? Has the same media disparity -Darfur/Congo been the case in le Monde and French media? (Le Monde: 1157 articles since 1987 on Darfour, 3054 on Congo, and 4000+ on Israel- it stops at 400 apparently) What are the Arab media- what’s the ratio of Darfur to Congo reporting? Al-Jazeera English on Youtube has 102 clips on Darfur, and 46 on Congo. There are 847 dealing with Israel.
If I were to paraphrase Julie Hollar, “I analyze Arab media coverage of the three crises and the various factors that influence that coverage, landing ultimately on the primary consideration: Arab political interests.” “I analyze French media coverage of the three crises and the various factors that influence that coverage, landing ultimately on the primary consideration: French political interests.”What have I learned? What should I make of this?
I agree with Alex that labeling Darfur conflict â€œas genocideâ€ is mostly the main reason of all this media coverage compare to Congo. However, the question is still valid why Darfur? There are many explanations could be mentioned to the motives. Nonetheless, it seems the political interests of the US is still the main driving force behind this media and advocacy attention to Darfur. As Julie Hollar rightly has said “Chinaâ€™s increasing business ties to the country also threaten U.S. interests in a region with substantial oil reserves”. Apparently, the role of China in Africa generally and in Sudan particularly is the main factor. We should not forget, though, Chinese successful business in Sudan especially in oil sector has raised their appetite to enter in economic ties with many countries in sub-Saharan region.
In Congo case, the plunder of the countryâ€™s resources, which primarily benefits multinational corporations, in my view is the main reason behind this neglect. Congo is also rich with coltan, a mineral used for cell phones and other common electronic devices. Africa is not yet well aware with this technology so the economic interests of big giant companies could affect the media coverage for their own benefits. If the media shed light on the situation there then people will try to find out who funds these rebel groups. For sure rebel groups who hold these areas sell off the minerals at cut-rate prices, using the profits to maintain power and the major beneficiary is the big companies.
One must not ignore the history of American advocacy in Sudan. The Sudan Campaign, which was a coalition that advocated for southern Sudanese Christians, was vocal and influential during the end of the 1990s and early 2000s. The Sudan Campaign had mechanisms for raising awareness already in place by the time the Darfur War began in 2003. African American talk-radio host and president of the Sudan Campaign (SC), Joe Madison, staged protests, participated in a hunger strike and regularly aired shows (to a very large national audience) about Darfur before the Save Darfur Coalition was formed. He had access to large Christian groups like Christian Solidarity International and a number of SC board members in Congress and the Senate including Sam Brownback, Donald Payne, and a handful of others. Eventually, Madison’s constituents would join the Save Darfur Coalition, but their initial network and access to legislators helped take the story of Darfur to a larger audience.
I disagree with the assessment that the US had political ambitions related to oil and therefore internationalized/sensationalized the Darfur conflict. There is little evidence to support this claim. First, the conflict in Darfur, and America’s reaction to it, has made it impossible for US oil companies to even think about getting involved in Sudan. A history of Sudan’s oil exploration activities will show you that both Chevron and Talisman Energy (Canadian Company) left Sudan over a decade ago and lost a lot of money because of pressure from activist groups and the political instability and civil conflict around the oil fields in southern Sudan. So why, with the political and activist environment being what it is, would any oil company want to get involved in Sudan? If the US (via corporate channels) had ambitions to tap into Sudan’s oil resources, they would do it as quietly as possible. And, if the US was trying to shame China internationally to get ahead in some kind of overall game/competition for resources in Africa, then they could have also picked a variety of other countries, including Congo, to expose China’s indifference over human rights, war crimes, etc.
All the International policies of the USA is very much influenced with Israel’s priorities versus the USA’s interests.
Congo in the last 7 years, over 3 million dead, versus 300 thousand dead in Darfur in the last 6 years. Why Darfur than is more in the media?
Because Sudan must be in a continuous chaos, according to Israel, Why? The Sudan we have today is a product of Egypt Mohamad Ali’s dynasty in 1820. That Sudan must be weakened at the least; to weaken Egypt, the real threat to Israel, regardless of all the peace deals.
The simple answer is that the Congo doesnt have a government deemed hostile by washington and its allies, therefore an intensive media campaighn would serve no purpose. The demonisation of sudan over Darfur serves the purpose of punishing a hostile government as well as beeing a warning to other regional governments thinking of stepping out of line, such as those of the congo, ethiopia,chad and uganda who also have internal conflicts that can be easily manipulated.
Marc how can you say the Darfur conflict isnt sensationalised when your having advocacy groups refering to a low intensity conflict that pits armed groups against each other as a genocide,especially when these same people arnt so forthcoming when it comes to condeming the more violent actions of their own country and its allies, such as the US air raids that killed hundreds of afghani civillians recently, while an incident even involving a handfull of civillian casualties in Darfur,regardless of whether their was government involvment is sufficient for them to urge for “intervention”.
advocate such as nicholas kristoff will demand justice for the thirty people killed last year in kalma camp when a fire fight insued between police officers and armed elements in the camp,but when it comes to matters closer to home such as his country wageing an illegal war that lead to 600,000 deaths by conservative estimates he suggest that Iraqis should stop dwelling on the past.
So Why is an internal conflict that is far less violent then both the US militairy campaighns charachterised as a genocide? Darfur is beeing used as a tool for regime change just like democracy and human rights have been used as an excuse to remove hostile countries in the past.
On what advocacy can achieve, there is a brilliant book by Stacy Sullivan titled: Be Not Afraid, for You Have Sons in America: How a Brooklyn Roofer Helped Lure the US into the Kosovo War
Having seen it in action first hand, I stand behind every word.
Advocacy (or rather “advertisement”) on any conflict, rich with daily press releases, updates, “stories” feed the reporters who inturn feed their editors, who finally feed the populace. If you keep them coming, with a few buzzwords such as genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes (anything holocaustic enough) thrown in here and there, you do not even need solid country interests to pump up the coverage, and initiate intervention.
I do indeed think the Darfur conflict has been sensationalized. I would even argue that it’s the most misunderstood conflict in recent history. I was just making the argument that the conflict was not sensationalized because of some grand US scheme in Africa, especially over oil. I think the reasons for the sensationalization of the Darfur conflict relate more to the complex history of American activism in Sudan and also the marketing know-how of the American activists/journalists, particularly their ability to tap into American predispositions and racial stereotypes, i.e. the Arab villain vs. the African victim.