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Communications and Humanitarianism Topic 3 Telling the story and getting it right!

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1 Communications and Humanitarianism Topic 3 Telling the story and getting it right!

2  Huge coverage of Vietnam war and gradual move into reporting humanitarian aspects of war began to change the approach of media coverage of humanitarian issues, conflict and war’s consequences. The great William Shirer had done this at end of WWII when he reported the scenes of horror at liberated Nazi concentration camps, Russell had done it during the Crimean War and some reporters during the Boer War. But most wars covered as a contest with death tolls like sports results. But Vietnam, the first TV war, really brought it home to audiences.  As the global reach of major newspapers and broadcasters increased and technology made instant reporting possible, the reporting of war and humanitarian crises became a more regular part of news content.  But not all conflicts were covered and the questions began to be asked about why some were covered and some not. Did the media cover important events or did events become important because they were covered? Where the media goes the money goes

3 Ed Murrow from Buchenwald: Permit me to tell you what you would have seen, and heard… It will not be pleasant listening…for I propose to tell you of Buchenwald. It is on a small hill about four miles outside Weimar, and it was one of the largest concentration camps In Germany…the prisoners crowded up behind the wire. We entered…There surged around me an evil-smelling horde. Men and boys reached out to touch me; they were in rags and the remnants of uniform. Death had already marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes…We proceeded to a small courtyard. The wall was about eight feet high…There were two rows of bodies stacked up like cordwood. They were thing and very white. Some of the bodies were terribly bruised…Some had been shot through the head…all except two were naked…more than five hundred men and boys lay there in two neat piles… the county round about was pleasing to the eye, and the Germans were well fed and well dressed. (Ed Murrow, 1968, In Search of Light: The Broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow (London: Macmillan)

4  But as humanitarian reporting increased, so did simple stereotyping.  Vietnam – burning villages, crying children, copters, bombing and the evil Vietcong.  Starving child (preferably crying)  Feeding centre (complete with emaciated mothers who cannot feed their starving babies and dying children covered in flies)  Aid worker (usually white, usually a woman, battling against the odds)  Reporter (breathless and shocked saying how awful it is)  Staggering statistics of how many will die each day Stereotypical Ingredients for disaster reporting

5 ● Formulaic coverage This can lead to Compassion Fatigue and a failure to provide context. You get the reaction – another flood in Bangladesh, another famine or war in Africa – it’s all the same, it’s an endless crisis news loop. Moeller: “ We’ve seen the same pictures, heard about the same victims, heroes and villains, read the same morality play. Even the chronology of events [in media reports] is repeated: A potential crisis on the horizon, the crisis erupts, the good guys rush in to save the victims but the victims remain to threaten the denouement…The dashing French doctors and American Marines rescued the starving brown child-victims in Somalia, for example, but the evil warlords stole away the chance for peace and prosperity” (Compassion Fatigue, p. 13). But should we question Moeller’s rather complacent, US- centric view, that it is better “a stereotyped memory than no memory. Better to recall Somalia in terms of starving babies, than not to remember the country at all” (Compassion Fatigue, p. 53)

6  Congo – where 5.4million have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced  Uganda, where civil war has killed over 100,000 - how many of you were aware of the Ugandan conflict, Kony and the LRA before the Kony video earlier this year?  Sudan, with about 2 million killed over 50 years and 5.5m displaced in the south in the series of wars leading to South Sudan’s independence; and over 70,000 dead and 2 million displaced in Western Sudan-Darfur  West Africa – wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – 2.5 million displaced and tens of thousands killed in Sierra Leone alone.  Colombia, with 3 million people driven from there homes and 35,000 killed since the early 1990s.  Chechnya – 600,00 displaced, somewhere between 35,000 and 120,000 killed.  Figures from Carole Collins – see below. Figures from Carole Collins – see below. Under-reported disasters

7  The disparities in amount of coverage are striking. In a little more than two months, the tsunami received more than four times as much coverage as Sudan received in a year—and Sudan got more media attention than any of the other “forgotten” crises. The emergencies in Uganda and West Africa each got about one-seventh as much media interest as the tsunami.For Congo, deemed the most pressing humanitarian disaster in the world, the ratio was 11:1; for Chechnya it was 12:1, and for both Haiti and HIV/AIDS 13:1. For every 15 stories on the tsunami, there was one on Nepal, and 24 tsunami reports for every one on Colombia. Infectious disease was the least visible of the crises named in the survey, out-covered by the tsunami by 38 to 1. Carole Collins on reporting time disparity

8 Vietnam

9 ● Tonkin Gulf, the Media and war In his book, The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam, Tom Wells gives a dramatic account of the Tonkin Gulf incidents. He says that American media "described the air strikes that Johnson launched in response as merely `tit for tat' — when in reality they reflected plans the administration had already drawn up for gradually increasing its overt military pressure against the North.“ Why was news reporting so wrong? Wells blames the media's "almost exclusive reliance on U.S. government officials as sources of information" — as well as "reluctance to question official pronouncements on 'national security issues.'“ Daniel Hallin's classic book The "Uncensored War" observes that journalists had "a great deal of information available which contradicted the official account [of Tonkin Gulf events]; it simply wasn't used. The day before the first incident, Hanoi had protested the attacks on its territory by Laotian aircraft and South Vietnamese gunboats.“ What's more, "It was generally known...that `covert' operations against North Vietnam, carried out by South Vietnamese forces with U.S. support and direction, had been going on for some time." In the absence of independent journalism, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution — the closest thing there ever was to a declaration of war against North Vietnam — sailed through Congress on Aug. 7The resolution authorized the president "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.“ This style of reporting – accepting government accounts and being swayed by calls for patriotism or reluctance to question on issues of “national security” then dominated US reporting for several years until doubts among politicians and the military gave journalists the chance to be more courageous

10  One American academic’s view of the press and Vietnam as a consumer:  I decided to develop a unit on the Vietnam War era because I am a product of this era. When I think back to my grammar school days during the 1960’s, I can’t help but remember the first time I heard about Vietnam. Mr. Creto, my 7th grade teacher, made reference to the fact that the boys in our class had better ready themselves to serve in Vietnam… If things were as serious as Mr. Creto said they were, everyone would have been talking about Vietnam and it would have been plastered all over the papers, which was not the case at the time. When I got to high school I started to notice articles in the local paper concerning the Vietnam War. The articles portrayed the U. S. (the good guys) fighting to stop communism (the bad guys) in Vietnam. I never once questioned the writer’s objectivity or whether or not the facts that were reported were accurate. My perception, values, and attitudes about the Vietnam War were being based on what I read in the local paper and saw on television.As the war came to an end and the truth about Vietnam started to emerge, the anger and mistrust I felt towards the American government was unbelievable. I felt as though I had been betrayed by the American press, whose integrity and objectivity I had thought was beyond reproach. Vietnam – the first TV war

11  Henry Rhodes:  One pressure that the major television stations had to deal with came from their affiliates. The Nixon administration used the affiliate stations to control what the major networks filmed in Vietnam better than any other U. S. administration. For the most part, affiliate stations were conservative, which reflected their viewing audiences’ values. Because the major networks were somewhat dependent on its affiliates to show its programming and advertisements, the networks usually heeded to the suggestions made by its affiliates. The affiliates didn’t want to see the U. S. portrayed in a negative way.  Another problem that reporters had to deal with in reporting what happened in Vietnam was its sources of information. In most cases the facts fed to newsmen were fed to them by U. S. military personnel. If the reporters were critical of the U. S. in their articles, they could be assured of having a tough time getting information the next time. What one must keep in mind is the fact that one’s livelihood as a journalist depended on the stories and information one sent back to one’s home office back in the states. Thus, reporters tried not to alienate their sources of information. Vietnam 2

12  France invad and makes Vietnam a colony.October  Ho Chi Minh helps found the Indochinese Communist Party.  September Japan invades Vietnam.  May Ho Chi Minh establishes the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam).  September 2, Ho Chi Minh declares independence –the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. French with British help re-occupy Saigon and south and start attacking Viet Minh held areas.  January The Viet Minh receive military advisors and weapons from China.  July The United States  pledges $15 million worth of military aid to France to help them fight in Vietnam.  May 7, The French suffer a decisive defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.  July 21, The Geneva Accords creates a cease-fire for the peaceful withdrawal of the French from Vietnam and temporary boundary between North and South Vietnam at the 17th parallel.  October 26, South Vietnam declares itself the Republic of Vietnam, with newly elected Ngo Dinh Diem as president.  December 20, The National Liberation Front (NLF), also called the Viet Cong, is established in South Vietnam.  November 2, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is executed during a coup.  August 2 and 4, North Vietnamese attack two U.S. destroyers sitting in international waters (the Gulf of Tonkin Incident). Vietnam war

13  August 7, In response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the U.S. Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  March 2, A sustained U.S. aerial bombing campaign of North Vietnam begins (Operation Rolling Thunder).  March 8, The first U.S. combat troops arrive in Vietnam.  January 30, The North Vietnamese join forces with the Viet Cong to launch the Tet Offensive.  March 16, U.S. soldiers kill hundreds of Vietnamese civilians in the town of Mai Lai.  July General William Westmoreland, who had been in charge of the U.S. troops in Vietnam, is replaced by General Creighton Abrams.  December U.S. troops in Vietnam reaches 540,000.July President Nixon orders the first of many U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam.  September 3, Communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh dies at age 79.  November 13, The American public learns of the Mai Lai massacre.  April 30, President Nixon announces that U.S. troops will attack enemy locations in Cambodia. This news sparks nationwide protests, especially on college campuses.  June 13 , Portions of the Pentagon Papers are published in The New York Times.  March The North Vietnamese cross the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the 17th parallel to attack South Vietnam in what became known as the Easter Offensive.  January 27, The Paris Peace Accords are signed that provide a cease-fire.  March 29, The last U.S. troops are withdrawn from Vietnam.  March North Vietnam launches a massive assault on South Vietnam.  April 30, South Vietnam surrenders to the communists.  July 2, Vietnam is unified as a communist country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Vietnam 2

14 ● Life magazine 27 June 1969 shows the war dead for that week – a turning point ● In June 1969, LIFE magazine published a feature that today, incredibly, remains as moving and, in some quarters, as controversial as it was when it sparked debate and intensified a nation’s soul-searching more than 40 years ago. On the cover, a young man’s face — the very model of middle-America’s “boy next door” — along with 11 stark words: “The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week’s Toll.” Inside, across 10 funereal pages, LIFE published picture after picture and name after name of 242 young men killed halfway around the world — in the words of the official announcement of their deaths — “in connection with the conflict in Vietnam.” ● The public response was immediate, and visceral. Some readers expressed amazement, in light of the thousands of American deaths suffered in a war with no end in sight, that it took so long for LIFE to produce something as dramatic and pointed as “One Week’s Toll.” Others were outraged that the magazine was, as one reader saw it, “supporting the antiwar demonstrators who are traitors to this country.”

15 ● Vietnam casualties North Vietnamese Army – Vietcong: 1,176,000 North Vietnamese civilians – ,000 South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) – 220,357 South Vietnamese civilians – 1,581,000 Cambodian civilians – 200,000 Laotian civilians – 100,000 US forces – 58,590 S Korean forces – 4,407 Philippines forces – 1,000 Thai forces – 1,351 Australian - 520

16  British colonial rule over India ends. A largely Muslim state comprising East and West Pakistan is established, either side of India. The two provinces are separated from each other by more than 1,500 km of Indian territory.  The Awami League is established to campaign for East Pakistan's autonomy from West Pakistan.  The Awami League, under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, wins an overwhelming election victory in East Pakistan. The government in West Pakistan refuses to recognise the results, leading to rioting. Cyclone hits East Pakistan - up to 500,000 people are killed.Independence. Mass displacement, killing of civilians and starvation.  Sheikh Mujib arrested and taken to West Pakistan. In exile, Awami League leaders proclaim the independence of the province of East Pakistan on 26th March. The new country is called Bangladesh. Just under 10 million Bangladeshis flee to India as troops from West Pakistan are defeated with Indian assistance. 3 December of that year, Pakistani air force carries out pre-emptive but largey unsuccessful raid on Indian air force. India declares war and defeats Pakistan in the East by 16 december, while pushing back Pakistani offensives in West.  Sheikh Mujib returns, becomes prime minister. He begins a programme of nationalising key industries in an attempt to improve living standards, but with little success.  Severe floods devastate much of the grain crop, leading to an estimated 28,000 deaths. A national state of emergency is declared as political unrest grows. Bangladesh timeline

17 What really happened What really happened - war of secession by people in the mainly Igbo-speaking area of south-east Nigeria. Oil producing area which felt, as many in the Delta still do, that they get little trickly down of wealth from the oil. Oil had only just started to flow in mid-60s and leader of the region, General Ojukwu demanded more autonomy and a bigger share of oil revenues. Northern-dominated government and military refused. Biafra seceded with some army units there becoming Biafran army. Most African countries (except, interestingly Tanzania) supported Nigeria and idea of national unity at all costs – France, Tanzania and one or two other countries backed Biafra. They may have helped with funding and sources of arms from international dealers. Britain and USSR armed Nigerian army. Ojukwu effectively taxed aid coming in to fund the war. Aid deliveries helped his war effort and may have prolonged the war – so did more die because of the aid effort? We simply do not know but it is a question worth asking. Media, Propaganda and Biafra Media, Propaganda and Biafra - distortions and misunderstandings – no real understanding or explanation despite wide coverage. Little reference to effects of colonial occupation, colonial formation of Nigeria and nature of handover with heavy northern dominance. Because the starving and malnourished were in Biafra and not the areas controlled by the Nigerian government, there was a tendency to see the Nigerians as the bad guys and Ojukwu as the good guy. MSF formed in 1970 when French doctors with Red Cross decided Red Cross was keeping quiet about government manipulation of aid and about atrocities. MSFD wanted to provide aid and be a “witness”. Biafran War

18  The Congolese war was a complex, multi-faceted war that mixed rebellion, inter-state rivalry, resource war (particularly for coltan, diamonds and gold), spill over from the Rwandan genocide and wars caused by threats to the survival of communities. The availability of weapons that flooded the country turned small local feuds into bloody if localized wars.  A war that is hard to explain in a 1.5 minute news despatch, a 45 second story or even a 3-4 minute news feature. It needs regular and in-depth coverage in order to be understood  In a remote area of a huge and little understood state.  No big camps, no mass collective starvation  Very few journalists, in heavily forested areas hard to reach and to film. People displaced by war not generally in huge camps.  Few pictures, few stories, too complex to explain.  But 45,000 dying every month – 50% of them children. Congo- the unreported war

19  Very unsatisfactory UN operation in Congo that was authorized in 1999 after Lusaka peace deal but was slow to pick up, understaffed and pretty useless. Went up from 2,000 in 2000 to 20,000 now. In 2005, 9 UN peacekeepers from B’desh killed by Hema militia in Ituri. UN forces, with helicopter back up, carried out raid to destroy the militia and capture leader, Thomas Lubanga – now on trial in Hague.  UN peacekeepers in DRC accused of rape, sexual abuse, corruption (including selling their weapons to militias they were supposed to be disarming), and violent excesses in some areas. Number of countries’ troops involved but India carried out own investigation and found widespread abuse – gave over $200m in aid to DRC soon after.  UN troops too widely stretched, little logistical support and poor command and control. UN role

20  International Rescue Committee surveys show 1.7m dead and 5.4m  Some deaths in combat or attacks on civilians but most disease and malnutrition.  DR Congo awash with rebels 23 July 2002  By Keith Somerville BBC News Online-   The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been complicated by the involvement of armies and militias from neighbouring countries, but the country's own political and military equation is just as hard to unravel.There are numerous rebels groups and factions, whose shifting allegiances could make them the jokers in the pack now that DR Congo and Rwanda have put their cards on the table.The two main groups are the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) and the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). Hidden war in Congo

21  Poor or shallow reporting creates a habit, a quick and easy frame that journalists can work within and which they think audiences understand and want. Little research is done and conflicts are poorly understood by journalists, editors and there fore their audiences.  Later same misunderstanding and misreporting continued and was repeated – Cambodia/Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Sudan, Goma camps etc  How can the story get so distorted? Implications of Biafra and similar conflicts

22 ‘Humanitarian reporting’ – danger!  Lazy stereotypes,  Lack of analysis and understanding results in no story or even wrong story being told.  Famines frequently misreported or partially reported missing out key areas of th story.


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