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Reporting Gone Awry – DR Congo

March 18, 2009

John Emerson’s interesting blog has a very nice section regarding the imbalance of media coverage between DR Congo and Darfur.  He’s by no means saying Darfur should receive less attention; he merely argues, and rightly so, that DR Congo requires a huge increase in coverage.

And he illustrates his point wonderfully, in a very crisp and concise manor:

DR Congo and Darfur

As I have commented previously, part of my thesis research shall compare press coverage the Christmas Massacre in DR Congo to the Gaza conflict as they cover almost exactly the same period of time, with around the same number of casualties.  I have a strong intuition already what the outcome shall be.

The tough task is finding out why this occurs.  It’s likely to be a combination of many factors, such as economic ties, story complexity, logisitcal factors and so forth.  But this can only account for so much – it is as if the story is being completely ignored on purpose.

A senior researcher from Human Rights Watch replied to Emerson’s post on why she thinks the DR Congo conflict is ignored:

“I fear that the Congo conflict receives less coverage because many outsiders have bought into the preconception that Congo is the ‘heart of darkness’ as characterized by Joseph Conrad’s book by the same title. The book has often been used to refer to Congo’s plight today, as if the country is somehow predisposed to dark atrocities and violence, and hence there is nothing new to report. Yet many have misunderstood the real message of Conrad’s book. It is not Congolese barbarism but rather the greed of outsiders that have plagued this country’s history. As the narrator of Conrad’s book describes, he found in Congo, ‘the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience.’ A situation little changed today. Surely that story is worthy of further press coverage.”

The motivations behind the lack of press response are bound to be complex, but the underlying factor may be, sadly, simple.

01/08/2009 – See my more recent blog post ‘In Defence on Conrad’ for discussion on Heart of Darkness.

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