Sunday, January 06, 2008

Death of international journalism

There is no doubt that CNN has been lopsided in its coverage of Africa, giving prominence to stories of hopelessness and desperation. Such stories have been devoid of depth, often said to be because of lack of time and the number of stories they have to cover in the world news segment.

But I have never felt that CNN needs to tell a balanced story like I did during the current unrest. I needed Paula Newton, reporting from Nairobi, to interview and bring stories from both sides of the political divide.

The election was 50-50 and CNN had a duty to interview the people who voted Raila Odinga, those who feel he should be president as well as the other half who feel that Mwai Kibaki should continue.

For the three stories I watched on CNN, they were a disgrace to international reporting. They only interviewed those opposing peace and willing to perpetrate the violence. I believe we needed to hear the voices of the people not willing to fight, willing to bring dialogue into the mix.

I believe that not all people in the opposition were killing their neighbors. Therefore, the story did not need to interview Kibaki’s supporters, but should have gotten at least one person willing to say, there are other ways other than killing each other.

The international media claims to be taking international angles to stories but all CNN did was to show Kenya as a desperate and hostile country and visitors should not come. I am not saying it was better, but a balanced story would have done us proud.

Understanding the local language is important. For instance there was this injured guy who was brought on air, and the guys carrying him asked in Swahiliunampeleka hospitali (are you taking him to hospital?)

But the journalist said that the guys were asking in Swahili “are you shot or cut?” apparently, the injured guy is supposed to have answered that he was shot.

That was wrong translation. But I understand the journalist, the local language was a challenge and for the international audience, they may not care much what the injured guy said.

Because we have faith that people will heal and embrace each other again, I hope CNN will be around to cover that and will not rush to the next big story.

By the way, how comes CNN does not cover American soldiers or civilians bleeding and writhing in pain, yet they show such images from other places??


John "Mnazi" said...

This is a great article, and clearly shows the bias, ignorance and indifference of the international media, particularly CNN, in reporting this. I am in the United States, and I humbly ask your permission to use quotes and insights from your article to send to national newspapers here calling on them to stop mistreating the situtation there. Asante sana kwa kazi yako, na Mungu bariki!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am in the UK and share the same sentiments about the BBC's online and broadcast coverage of the recent events in Kenya. If you read through submitted comments on the BBC website, you soon realise a certain level of biased by the BBC's moderators giving Western audiences the usual images of Black, savage, corrupt, greedy, shockingly, educated and can speak good English, Kenyans = Africans. To get a better idea of events overseas, I've resorted to blogs, instead.

Anonymous said...

Wanjiku, I agree. Those were very one-sided stories, and nobody seemed concerned with or commented on the impression created: that Kenya was being held hostage by the "No Raila, No Peace" people.I have been wondering why the west is so muted about the genuine concerns of the Kikuyus that, considering the tribal hatred rhetoric coming out of the elections, an ODM win could mean their end as a people. I agree, the election was most likely rigged, yes, but rigging can be broad enough to include bad campaign strategies like the Us vs Them stategy ODM used to galvanize the nation by blaming all its short comings on one tribe. At a deeper level, mere winning of votes does not amount to democratic progress. That is why Israel and the west refused to recognize the democratically elected Hamas government. How come nobody is looking at that angle?Why is the west's reaction to the genuine concern of the Kikuyus muted? Or is it not a fact they were the target? Were there guarantees there would have been no violence if Kibaki lost? that ODM's anti-Kikuyu campaign rhetoric would not be implemented once they ascended into power?. Right now, isn't the violence checked because Kibaki has deployed security forces and evacuated, and is still evacuating, Kikuyus in diaspora?

Like all Kenyans, I'm hoping a resolution to the immediate problem is found-- it seems an internationally mediated coalition government to be where we are headed-- but it seems to me this is being forestalled by Kibaki because he does not trust the west to fully understand or may be even care about what is REALLY happening in Kenya.

Unknown said...

If you type the words 'Kill "CNN"' in Google (without the single quotes - but with double quotes around the word CNN), you will get 666,000 results.

Hmmm.. 666... Makes you wonder...

* Kenya has a population of 34 MILLION people.

* Assuming worst case scenario the sensational numbers reported by CNN (500 people dead, 250,000 displaced) - represents less than 0.3% of the entire country. Think about it next time you see a CNN report claiming that the entire country is at war.

* Western countries do not want peace and stability in Africa. They need a place to dump their second hand waste. Economic slavery in the form of "Aid" still exists.

*If Africa prospers, where will the West test their biological weapons? Ever wondered why Africa is worst hit by AIDS / Ebola viruses?

* How come all western leaders suddenly seem to have a solution to Kenya's problems? Every body wants to mediate. Some names I have never even heard of suddenly show up! Bloody hypocrites want to beef up their own CVs in the hope of getting a Nobel prize... "I, Mr. A. N. Whitey, single handedly mediated the worst conflict in Africa - and prevented civil war in Kenya. The wretched Africans couldnt have done it without me."

* Some western journalists have suggested that Visas be revoked for Kibaki, Raila and all Kenyan MPs. Hmm... Since when did Visas become a privilege for African Leaders? This is really insulting to Kenyans and any self-respecting African.

I could go on and on.. I'm sick of the western double standards and their open hatred for Africa.

Anonymous said...

How on the spot your observation is! That is the way with international media; Africa turmoil perfectly fits in the western picture and sells like hot cake up there.

Many a western journalist have build careers on the back of bloated violence in Africa, where they present themselves as bold chaps dodging bullets and machetes, to tell the world what is happening.

Only the person on the ground knows the ammount of exaggeration that goes into this damaging reporting.

And that is why I wonder how and when Africa can tells its story AS IT IS!

Anonymous said...

Are you in the same country I am in? The international reporting was not nice, but it was accurate. People were killing each other. The cities, towns and even countryside were filled with terrified people. In my office of around 130 people, two had siblings chased out of their homes and the homes burnt. One saw two men beaten to death. About five are still stuck in Western, hoping for a military escort to help them come to Nairobi.

Stop claiming the Western media is being biased. Our country is a mess. And for the person who says only 0.3% of the nation is effected, try again. Tell my scared housie she is not effected or better yet, tell the person who saw the two men killed that she is not effected because she isn’t dead or homeless. You just try to tell her to walk to walk the streets without fear. Or maybe you would like to try and walk from Eldoret to Nakuru without an ID card with the “right” name on it? We are all effected.

Unknown said...

I agree with you my friend, Violence is deplorable - doesnt matter how many people are affected. No one should die because of their ethnicity. No one should die because they voted or were perceived to have voted for someone. Innocent Children burining to death in church.. that is utterly deplorable and shocking. My sincere condolences to all the victims.

It is also true that our politicians, with their own PERSONAL GREED for power remained cold and did not hear the cries of their country men.

However, Exaggeration and bias by the western media is unacceptable. Kenya is portrayed as a sprawling slum with primitive , violent inhabitants. The objective is clearly to reinforce westernt stereotypipical image of Africa - the "Wretched Continent"

Plus, the violence was not even close to Rwanda proportions. Yes there was Fear and tension - but the whole country was NOT in chaos and violence as depicted by CNN.

Case in point: A CNN journalist went to a mortuary, took photo's of dead children and attached them next to a story covering Desmond Tutu's visit to kenya. No caption, no description of the photo. Jesus!

Our politicians encouraged (and probably fianced) the violence and used the western media to get international pressure on the government. Remember alarming statements like "Tutaondoa Madoadoa kati yenu" statement by the so called "People's President"?

Kenyans are peaceful communities and different tribes have coexisted for years without issues.

It's widely known that tribal clashes in Kenya are perpetrated by a few trained and well funded vigilante groups similar to Mungiki, Kalenjin warriors and Kamjesh.

Look around you and you will see that the biggest perpetrator of conflict in the world is the West (by colonization/interference) and it's media (by exagerration and spreading fear and hate).

CNN Success Formula Revealed:
No violence=No news.
No news=No dollars!
Violence= Dollars
If no chaos--> Incite Chaos.
Else if inciting chaos fails,
Look for scandals and dirty news.

Anonymous said...

I was told by a local senior editor sometimes back that ¨what bleeds, leads¨. I bet they must have learnt it from the likes of CNN and ... Its a shame. Whatever they look to gain from the turbulence in Kenya, lets see how far they go with it. My hope is that we rise above the violence and if they so wish, they can give us a media blackout.