Posts Tagged ‘Media’

“If we have a good media environment, then we also have a peaceful environment”.

There is no better example of how true WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s comment about the role of the media in creating distress amongst the masses than the current situation in Greece. This piece looks at how that distress was created by an inconsiderate media.

Stereotypes and Narratives
During the height of the Greek protester’s clashes with riot police on the streets of Athens representatives of the media found some, or perhaps a lot, of the Greek public’s frustration directed at them.

The protester’s frustration at the state of their country and the way it is being dealt with has only being added to by their feeling that the media is stereotyping them, misrepresenting them, and that they are only voicing the concerns and opinions of the economic and financial elite rather than representing the reality of the Greek worker.

It is important to realise that the media like to create narratives and stereotypes – modes which are easy for us simple public to consume. A quick example that satisfies the media’s taste for a familiar narrative is the recent substitution of leading bad guys; Gadaffi replacing the tired old image of bin Laden, and the old favourite narrative of the US leading the way into a distant country to protect the civilians from their own leader.

It was only a few months ago that the main stereotype of the Egyptians was that they were somewhat pathetic, that they conflict with democracy, and that half of them were fundamentalist Muslims, and then suddenly they became the protagonists of the fight for democracy. This is a clear instance of the media changing the narrative when the stereotypes have collapsed.

Compared to the Greek story the Arab Spring was a much more straight-forward narrative – the images consisted of demonstrations, people demanding democracy, and more liberal rights. This is very easy for people to understand and relate to worldwide.
A situation like Greece is much more difficult to understand – it is much harder to see what they are demonstrating about, to understand why austerity is being imposed, and what is wrong with the Euro. And so covering the economic crises is more difficult for journalists than covering the Arab Spring.

Lazy Greeks
A lot of Greeks feel the mainstream western media only picked up on their story when it turned violent. To many protesters this misrepresents the initial peaceful nature of their movement. Also, the Greek’s frustration is caused by the media’s focus on what the politicians are going to do about the current problems whereas they rarely address what the Greek people themselves are thinking about all this.

According to many alternative Greek journalists there is a sense that the media are stigmatising their social demands and are trying to create a monstrous profile of the protesters.

In some countries, the media has gone as far as to suggest that the reason the Greeks are in such a financial predicament is because they are lazy and don’t work as much as other European countries. http://www.thelocal.de/national/20110624-35869.html

According to the Operation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), however, that is not true.
In 2008 Greeks worked on average 690 hours more than the average German, 450 more than the average Brit, and 350 hours more than the OECD average.

According to Eurostats data from 2005 the average age of exit from the labour force in Greece was 61.7; higher than France, Germany, Italy and higher than the EU average. http://economicsnewspaper.com/policy/german/french-study-southern-europeans-to-work-longer-and-harder-than-german-31077.html

In fact, according to a Eurostat survey published recently, it is the Irish who are lazy, averaging a full two hours under the EU norm of hours worked per week. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/we-work-fewer-hours-than-rest-of-eu-except-danes-2809663.html

So to portray the Greeks as lazy is baseless and only adds to the protester’s frustration that the Western and international media are not focusing on the problems that need to be addressed. It would also lead one to ask the question why would such news outlets say such a thing?

Greek Anger
This anger directed at the media has been bubbling for a while as the protester’s found their own countries’ major news corporations to be missing the big picture.

Everytime a Greek turned on their television they saw, and still see, representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the E.U. talking about the problems in Greece and what the Greeks need to do. The media, perhaps understandably, think that the IMF knows best. Yet this is the same IMF that didn’t see the big financial crises coming.

Europe editor of the Economist John Peet makes the point that in a complex financial and economical crises the media tend to depend too much on official sources, briefings from finance ministries, the European commission and/or the IMF on information and the way of thinking and so don’t relate the feelings of the protesters as much as they become somewhat smothered by the more assured, and mostly well presented, business figures.

As a result the Greek people target the media because they see it as part of the problem and it has evolved or snowballed so that the protesters are now united by their hostility towards the media.

The Same old Story
Greece’s domestic media landscape is similar to many other countries – several outlets in the hands of a wealthy few, and many of those groups are conglomerates whose non-media companies do a lot of business with the same government their news outlets cover.

The majority of people in the media get their revenue from other sources such as shipping, construction, and banking.
The media serves as a tool to negotiate with the government and get the big jobs in big contracts from the state.

It’s obvious if you own the companies that take money from the state in order to do several constructions (such as infrastructure etc) and you also control the media, that the discourse of that media would be affected by the interests of its owners.

Another major piece of the problem is that economics still does not have alternative economists. There is no other choice or alternative to the current mode of economics.

“What happened to this country? Oh it spent too much money. What should we do so? Well, let’s give them loads more money of course. And if that doesn’t work? Give them even more!”

There is no other alternative, no other road to take. 

“There needs to be economists with a different agenda, which is not IMF, neo-liberalism, or to pursue austerity all the time. Until then it will be the Greeks are wrong, IMF are right, the EU are right, when really it should be the other way round.” Samah El-Shahat, Economist Al-Jazeera.

The Greeks believe this is a macro-economical story.

“It will not stop here- it will go to Portugal, Ireland, Spain, UK…we have an invasion, the invading forces don’t wear uniforms, they wear suits, and they don’t carry weapons, they carry laptops. And they are telegenic and talk in sound bytes; they look and sound better than the Greek chorus of discontent on the streets.” – Dimitri Galanis, Correspondent Tovima Newspaper. http://www.tovima.gr/

Media coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza-bound Flotilla

Posted: May 31, 2010 by undergroundfisherman in Media
Tags: , , , ,

Media coverage of every major event varies depending on where you are in the world and who you listen to. There’s little doubt that political and ideological agendas within the media play a big part in the way stories are presented to the wider world. Taking last night’s (30/31st of May) attack by Israeli forces on a flotilla of Palestinian aid ships bound for Gaza as an example, let’s look at the different angles that the media tend to take when it comes to issues such as the Israel/Palestine conflict. Hopefully by looking at every side of the story, we can piece together an idea of what exactly happened. Bear in mind this is more an exploration of journalistic styles rather than a critique of the incident.

Benjamin Netanyahu at press conference by Downing Street.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed his troops after the flotilla incident, but it has been received with horror in many parts of the world

Reuters.com is well known as one of the most balanced of all news services, and they delivered on this once again, speaking to the Israeli side they asked how the incident escalated to such an extent that upwards 19 people have died. Apparently, the troops boarded the ships armed primarily with paintball guns, but switched to their backup of live ammo when the activists resisted. An Israeli troop who boarded the ship spoke to Reuters and said “they beat us with metal sticks and knives, there was live fire at some point against us.” In another article on the same website, entitled “Israel flotilla action criticised by friends and foes”, they discuss the possible implications it may have for politics in the region. Turkey, who have had better relations with Israel than most, have said “Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behavior.” Thousands of Turkish citizens have already took to the streets of Istanbul in protest. Reuters also takes a quote form French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who said “I am profoundly shocked by the tragic consequences of the Israeli military operation against the Peace Flotilla for Gaza.”

MSNBC focus on the political implications of the tragedy, focusing especially on Turkey. “Turkey, which had urged Israel to allow the ships safe passage, cancelled three planned joint military exercises with Israel, and Ankara said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would cut short an official visit to Latin America to return home. He described a fatal Israeli commando raid on an aid ship as “state terrorism.” they go on to quote further from what Erdogan said in Chile on Monday that “Israel has shown that it does not want peace in the region and has violated international law.”

Al Jazeera who were given a terrible reputation as propagandists during the Iraq and Afghan wars, are in fact a very reputable and objective news source. They gave this early report of the incident early this morning

Fox News give the same facts as Reuters, but their choice of words is much different. They open their coverage of the incident with the headline “Israel Prime Minister gives “full support” in Gaza flotilla raid.” Speaking with Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, who said, “the organizers’ (of the flotilla) intent was violent, their method was violent and the results were unfortunately violent. Israel regrets any loss of life and did everything to avoid this outcome.”

Sky News, bemusingly, looks at the situation in some detail from a PR point of view. In a two-minute video on their website, they manage to implicate the humanitarian mission with Hamas. Einat Wilf, a member of the Israeli Knesset, said they shold not have boarded the boats because “you should not send soldiers into the PR arena. They suggest that Hamas will benefit greatly from the incident calling it “a PR coup at a time when their popularity had been under pressure.” This tenuous link to Hamas is followed up by another mention of the militia group, this time in Danny Ayalon’s official address to the media, saying it was “an armada of hate and violence in support of the Hamas terrorist organisation.” Dominic Waghorn’s report from Ashdod is one which really tries to link the flotilla with terrorism, which is something that even the most hardened  pro-Israeli cannot justify.

In an interview with Sky News, Adrian Harrison, whose daughter Alex was one of the members of the aid mission, refutes any connections to anything other than aid, saying “Alex has been working for Human Rights groups for eight years now, she was on The Spirit of Humanity, another boat which the Islaeli’s seized, thay said the cargo would be given to the Palestinians, but that never happened.” Mr Harrison was then asked questions such as whether his daughter was taking part purely for humantiarian puposes or for political ones, whether they were expecting to be intercepted by Israel, and when the last time he had seen his daughter. All of the questions were put to Mr Harrison in an attempt to suggest that the flotilla was a PR stunt to embarrass Israel and to provoke such a heavy-handed reaction. There are no links to this rather terse interview on the website, but you can find it on Sky News active at the moment.

Here’s a round-up of some of the reaction to the incident.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has officially declared three days of mourning.

“There must be an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza,” Catharine Ashton – EU Foreign Policy Chief.

“India deplores the tragic loss of life and the reports of killings and injuries to the people on the boats carrying supplies for Gaza. There can be no justification for such indiscriminate use of force” – Indian Ministry for External Affairs

“The president has expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible” – White House press release.


George W. Bush: Mission Accomplished by nailbombs & faeriewings.

Back in 2003, this was supposed to be the defining image of a war that continues to this day

The enduring memory of the Second Iraq War is that of a crowd of Iraqi civilians toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. It was April 9th, 2003 – a moment which would go down in history as a spontaneous act of passion and elation by the oppressed natives, finally liberated from the clutches of a tyrannical government by the American forces. While everyone was glad to see the back of Saddam, that iconic image of the statue being toppled is by no means the act of wild celebration it seemed on television.

It was in fact, a carefully planned event staged by the US military for the benefit of the Western media. The idea was to secure “an image of victory”; an image that would live long in the memory and give visual proof that the days of Saddam were now a thing of the past. Three weeks later, on the 1st of May, George W. Bush gave his famous “Mission Accomplished” speech from the USS Abraham Lincoln – things were apparently winding down in Iraq – the job was done. It’s seven years now since that day, and the sense of irony is grating when we look at the US death toll since then. The current US Military death toll now stands at 4,287and a staggering 4,137 of these have come after Bush had declared victory. (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iraq_casualties.htm),

The two images, the toppling of Saddam and the Mission Accomplished speech, were supposed to be the Hiroshima and Nagasaki of this particular war, two compelling examples of a job well done. The toppling of the statue was just as choreographed an event as Bush’s complacent but calculated speech in front of thousands of smiling troops. Firdos Square was cordoned off before the event, and non-western journalists were held under siege with mortar atacks the day beforehand. According to Michael I Niman, in his publication Toppling Reality – Image Warfare in Iraq, he documents how  “The US Army deliberately and without warning targeted journalists”, killing a Reuters correspondent, along with one each from Al-Jazeera and Spain’s Telecino. While the US claims it was returning fire from guerrilla forces,  Robert Fisk, reporting for the London Independent, has a very different account of proceedings. He reported hearing no fire before the mortar blasts, and said that the whole event Looked “very much like murder”. http://www.coldtype.net/Assets/pdfs/12.Nim.April14.pdf

With non-embedded journalists now out of the way, the Army were ready to stage the event. They invited Iraqis who had in some way supported the War to come and take down the statue.

We can see here how US tanks surrounded the perimeter of Firdos Square in order to direct the event as planned

It was eventually pulled down by an M88 tank, not in a Berlin Wall-esque effort by the people. At one stage, a marine attempted to drape an American flag around the statue, the fact that he even had a flag with him at the time suggests that this was indeed a pre-meditated event.

Normally, I tend to stay away from sensationalist and overly-populist issues such as this, because they tend to be inchoate arguments that centre on the “Bush is an Idiot” theme. The fact is, Bush had very little to do with this war once it got started – it soon became about the Military’s relationship with the media, and the careful control of the images that were allowed back to the Western world.

It is amazing how often we are lied to and misled by the mainstream media, the Firdos Square event was a prime example. Especially now,  in a time when people are starting to forget about the real details of the conflict, this could go down as the defining image. Even before this, we were fed idealised images of surgical strikes on terrorist cells, and cheering locals in the streets of Baghdad, quietly glossing over the real facts, such as the civilian body count, which now stands at a conservative estimate of between 96,037 and 104,754 since the start of the War. http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

For some reason, the Western media only seems to cover certain stories. We tend to see images stranded tourists in airports after the Icelandic volcano, and plenty of celebrities lending a hand in Haiti, so we assume that these are the top stories in the world at that moment in time. With all of these cameras pointed in the same direction, it’s easy to forget about the other ongoing situations all around the world that seem to go unnoticed by the majority of media outlets. Here’s a few examples of the unreported conflicts that are ongoing in today’s world…

DR Congo

Mining in Kailo by Julien Harneis.

Above: A mine in the Maniema region of the DRC. Wars over the control of these mines have been the source of countless civilian deaths in recent years.

The demand for metals such as zinc and copper, used for the production of software and mobile phones has driven this conflict out of control. Global Witness, who investigate the links between conflict and natural resources, have reported on how militia groups in the East African country control much of the trade in minerals in the area. Tungsten, tantalum, gold and tin are all sought after, and warring factions have caused massive upheaval in the country because of this.

Disease and famine have been another huge cause of hardship, and it has been estimated in the most recent figures (2009) that an average of 45,000 people die every month in DR Congo. These figures came from a New York Times article by Nicholas D Kristof, which was alarmingly entitled “Orphaned, Raped and Ignored”. This is very much the case at the moment, since nobody seems to be covering the bloodiest conflict since the Vietnam War, one which has claimed the lives of over 4 million people and displaced many more.

Falun Gong

The Chinese government wants to do away with this “dangerous cult”.

The group has been outlawed and persecuted in the secular Chinese state for years now. They are quite an innocuous group, who teach the virtues of meditation, morality, and personal development. The Chinese government officially outlawed the group on July 20, 1999. They claimed the organisation had been “engaged in illegal activities, advocating superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability.” The movement draws influence from Buddhist, Taoist, and Qigong teachings, as well as modern science, and the meditation aspect is comparable to yoga. It has always taught the importance of peace and compassion, and yet they have been vilified by their own government.

Frequent reports of torture and imprisonment of members have been (quite typically) covered up by Chinese authorities. It is yet another indictment on the way the country is run, and China will have to make major changes to their free speech and human rights policies if it ever wants to be seen as the modern, dynamic nation it always claims to be.

Mexico

ezln_subcomandante_marcos.jpg picture by whitepony05

Above: Subcomandante Marcos, EZLN leader

Since New Year’s Day of 1994, the people in the Chiapas region of Southern Mexico have been waging war on the federal government, claiming that they are so out of touch with the needs of their own people that they have become an illegitimate authority. The leaders of this revolution are the EZLN, or “Zapatistas”, led by the charismatic, pipe-smoking Subcomandante Marcos.

The conflict began in 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect, giving multi-national companies from America the right to fell trees and extract natural resources from Mexico for a low price. Southern Mexico is mostly jungle, but since 1994, deforestation has become a huge problem, especially for the native Zapatistas, who are constantly on the move in a bid to keep out of reach of Mexican officials.

Although they are an armed group, the EZLN have not used their weapons since January 12th, 1994. Instead, they rely on the internet and other media to get their message across to the outside world in the hope of instigating some kind of change. Marcos himself said of their non-violent approach “We didn’t go to war to kill or be killed. We went to war in order to be heard.

Clearly, despite the backing of plenty of NGO’s and politically-charged bands such as Rage Against the Machine, their message has yet to bring about much change. They remain the ultimate victims of capitalism, having seen their homes quite literally cut down in front of them.