Monday, April 07, 2003

TEN SECONDS FOR A PEACE ACCORD

It's not just the American media who cover the news of some regions of the world poorly or not at all. Last week, the factions of the war, often known as Africa's First World War, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC] signed a peace accord in South Africa. The accord called for the implementation of a national unity government, future elections and, of course, an end to hostilities.

According to the Belgium paper La Libre Belgique, "The RBTF [Belgian state television] only required a few seconds to report on the accord signed on April 1 in Sun City, South Africa, between the Kabila government and the rebel factions. A brief report. In the guise of images, a map of the region. As if to say that the event wasn't worth sending a journalist to the area or even an after-the-fact analysis. But even if weapons are still heard in the east of the Congo, in Ituri province, this accord is a strong symbolic gesture for the population who has continued to pay a high price in tribute to the different warlords in that region of central Africa."

One is wise to be skeptical of this 1000th peace accord. However, this episode demonstrates clearly the power of imagery. It's almost impossible to send cameramen to the isolated and distant jungles of eastern Congo. Much easier to send reporters to follow in the footsteps of wherever western troops are located. The European and North American publics are thus much more informed about the problems of Iraq or Kosovo or Bosnia, but hardly at all about the estimated 2 million deaths attributable (directly and indirectly) to the war in the DRC since the beginning of the conflict 5 years ago.

You often hear the rationalization that the western public isn't interested in foreign news except when their country's nationals are somehow involved. How can the public be interested or disinterested in something it doesn't even know is in the process of consuming an entire region? It's impossible to get indignant about something you don't even know is occurring!

The full text of the article in question (in French) can be found by clicking here.

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