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Media & Influence – DR Congo

March 17, 2009

DR Congo ConflictOne question I find particularly daunting when looking at the DR Congo is as follows:

What is the direction of influence between the media and the State?

Much of the focus of my work shall be on the assumption that media coverage is required for positive change to occur.  This can come from two predominant angles: 1) The governments actually do something, thus receive coverage, or 2) The media brings it out into the public conciousness and governments are compelled to do something. How can the DR Congo best be aided?

I recently, by complete fluke I must say, came across the blog ‘Stealth Conflicts’ which instantly ignited my interest due to it’s desire for discussion on the DR Congo conflict and it’s downright wrath towards the lack of attention put upon the conflict.  I said fluke because the creator of this site was one Virgil Hawkins; an assistant professor I recently quoted in the opening lines of my thesis.

Hawkin’s focused on the effects of news on state policy in his journal, and one theory in particular called the ‘CNN factor‘.  In essence, the ‘CNN factor’ is a process which suggests that media coverage does have an influence upon ‘evoking responses in their audiences through concentrated and emotionally based coverage, which in turn applies pressure to governments to act in response to a particular conflict’ (Hawkins, V, 2002).  In the opposite case, if a conflict receives less coverage, it receives less support from the global community.

In light of this, one could say that the media has a large responsibility on its shoulders.  A responsibility it’s not living up to in too many cases (and in CNN’s case for sure).

At the other side of this argument, there is the ‘Manufacturing Consent‘ (MC) theory.  There are basically two strands within this theory: Executive MC is where media conforms with the frames and agendas of the general government, and Elite MC is media conforming with the general elite.

Both of these theories have relevence, but as stated in the previous post media influence is often overstated.  Which I find mildly amusing as my current job involves myself often begging for media attention.

It is clear, however, that coverage of DR Congo is being ignored and needs to find its way into the news agenda.  Without any coverage, as it stands, there is little hope for change.

Another issue does worry me: Is the sheer horror of the conflict, a conflict so far from home, too much for most to take? New York Times writer Bob Herbert wrote an excellent article on this issue:

Perhaps we’ve heard so little about them because the crimes are so unspeakable, the evil so profound… Women and girls of all ages, from old women to very young children, have been gang-raped, and in many cases their sexual organs have been mutilated. The victims number in the hundreds of thousands. But the world, for the most part, has remained indifferent to their suffering.

I constantly hear a voice in the back of my mind telling me: ‘If these were white people, it would have been put to an end by now.’  When I look at the NY Times’ last related article on this issue, it was back in October 2008.

This does not relieve the media of responsibility.  The media in general is by no means giving the general populance what they ask for – they are shaping agenda’s to meet their own commercial, political and personal needs.  Ethical guidlines should be the underlining principle of journalism but all to often these are ignored, and the DR Congo conflict appears to be a case in point.



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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2009 10:43 pm

    What is needed is an urgent response from the end user – The consumer. There isn’t time to wait for a media response to the situation as some media channels are being blown onto a different agenda. We can take action by Not using our mobiles (cell) phones (‘Call for Action’ No Cell/Mobile Phone Day – 1st Oct 2009) this will force companies to make their supply chain transparent and legal when it comes to the much needed raw minerals often at the heart of these atrocious conflicts.

  2. August 30, 2009 1:39 pm

    THE SITUATION IS SO BAD . I AM A STUDENT HERE IN SWAZILAND AND IT IS VERY PAINFULL TO SEE THE YOUTH OF THE COUNTRY LOSING THEIR FUTURE DUE TO THE POLITICAL INSTABILITY.
    I WANT TO RENDER HELP TO THE MOST AFFECTED AREA. THE FUNDS HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO ME TO MANAGE AND SEE THAT THEY ARE USED VERY WELL FOR HUMANITARIAN ,CHARITY WORK. WELL THEY ARE NOT IN MY POSSETION NOW BUT THEY WILL BW SOON.
    LOOKING FOR SOMEONE IN CONGO THAT I CAN WORK WITH TO PROVIDE HELP TO THE PEOPLE, ONLY HELP, WE ARE NOT GOING TO CHANE THE PEOPLE RELIGION AND POLITICAL STATUS BUT WE ARE PROVIDING HELP THAT THEY WILL SAY THEY NEED IT AT THAT MOMENT, WE ARE NOT GOING TO TELL THEM WHAT WE WILL GIVE THEM BUT THEY WILL TELL US AS THEY KNOW THEIR SUFFERING.
    PLEASE EMAIL ME AT VUSANEMTHOMBO@YAHOO.COM, WANT SOMEONE FROM CONGO TO WORK WITH AND THE IS NO REWARD AS THE MONEY IS FOR THE PEOPLE, WELL IT WILL BE BEST IF THE PERSON I WILL WORK WITH IS ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAD SUFFERED.

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