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Discussion on DR Congo Conflict

March 19, 2009

CONGO-DEMOCRATIC/

Here is some of the best feedback I’ve come across so far as I’ve trawled the blogs:

I asked Virgil @ stealthconflicts what he thought could be changed to make the media in general more responsive to events such as the DR Congo conflict:

Virgil said:

“Thanks for that, Simon. I wish I had the answers…

In my book I was able to come up with a number of conclusions on the mechanisms behind stealth conflicts, but struggled to find recommendations on what to do about it. This is largely because all the major actors seem to be flocking together when it comes time to determine which conflicts are ‘important’ and which are not. This includes those that are supposed to be watchdogs and the objective observers of reality. This is not a conspiracy, but rather a result of market forces and peer pressure.

There is unfortunately little that can be done to bring the media into line, and their commercial tendencies seem only to be getting stronger. A number of developing countries tried to do something about the Western grip on global information flow in the 70s and 80s, but failed, and the movement saw the withdrawal of the USA from UNESCO.

The internet has the potential to serve as a way to circumvent this Western dominance, but it remains largely untapped. Western news corporations dominate the internet. But the potential is certainly there, and it is largely for this reason that I have started blogging.

As you suggest, in our capacity as individuals, using the internet to expose and draw attention to the skewed flow of information in the world may be our best bet at chipping away…”

It’s such a touch idea to take, but likely holds true.  This diagram illustrates the imbalances of reporting regarding the number of casualties strikingly:  How many people have to die to be reported in the NY Times?:

drc-isrpal

Indeed, in reponse to this we received:

Blog admin from stopthewarinkivu said:

“This is an issue I´ve thinking about for years.
I think that the main asset of a news company is credibility. People have to believe that what you say is true, that they can rely on you. But credibility does not only consist on that.
From my point of view, credibility from a journalistic point of view also means that you are able to distinguish what is news from what is not, what is worth telling and what is not (or is less worth telling). Every modern newspaper has tons of news waiting in a cue everyday. Journalists have to decide which one is relevant and which one is not. News have to be chosen or discarded.
As a consumer who buys newspapers, credibility is the main feature I look for. Among other things, I consider credible a news company that repeteadly shows a moral criteria in the process of considering what is news. This depends on how the news company sees itself. If it sees itself as a company providing an important service (information), and is aware of its responsibility, it will have a deontological code able, for instance, to prioritize complex wars with a high death toll in the front page, no matter how complex and far they are.
Unfortunately, the media are not anymore watchdogs (like in the time of Woodward and Bernstein). What counts is not information, but infotainment. Above any other consideration, newspapers nowadays are businesses looking for profit. That leaves credibility as an adjective, not a substantive, feature. One of the consequences is leaving complex and unpleasant news in the drawer.
Thank god that we have the internet to be watchdogs ourselves. According to everyone, the internet is going to change (is already changing) the news business forever.

all the best,”

So it is the internet that will change things – but I also wonder about mobile phones.  Half the global population now owns one – far more that computer owners.  Is there a way we could ‘arm’ citizens in these conflict zones with the devices so that could be plugged into this apparently powerful network? It’s a vague idea for now but something I would like to pursue.

Another response was interesting because traditional news values state that negativity is key in popular reporting, but I have read some literature recently suggesting that positivity in reporting is on the rise.  I wonder if this is the case?

iyabode said:

“Honestly, the crisis in the Congo is very intricate. The scope of its worth is far too intense for the US to handle even in the press. One thing I will say for mainstream here, the tendency is always to paint the better-looking picture. This leaves me sad but also wondering whether the sacrifices being made in the Congo are just that.”

This response has lead me to some interesting reporting:

peoples_fire_circle_turtle_island said:

“Keith harmon Snow is the man to talk to, I respect his reporting and appreciate all he has done to bring these truths and insights to light. If you need to speak to him, you can get in touch with him either through his web-site allthingspass.com or by sending him an e-mail keith.harmon.snow@gmail.com

Keith also followed up with a new item:

AFRICOM’S COVERT WAR IN SUDAN

The Winter of Bashir’s Discontent
keith harmon snow
5 March 2009

http://www.allthingspass.com
It’s an interesting read….
Many Blessings of Peace and Hope be to You,
Prairy”

There are a growing number of voices out there discussing the DR Congo conflict.  It will be fascinating to see if they have an impact on the mainstream media sometime; I desperately hope they do.

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