With the ever-prevalent globalisation through the rapid growth in technology, the development of the digital age has allowed mass media and communication to become a fundamental aspect of everyday life, through the engagement of society. Platforms such as News Media – print or broadcast – equip society with facts about important and pressing issues around the globe. It might be expected that these sources of media would report accurately on what’s most important or relevant, but it is realistic to state that the majority of mass media affiliates itself with hidden agendas. These ‘agendas’ are more or less attributed to the sensationalism of stories in order to gain the attention of the audience, after all, as News Director Bill Applegate said, “If it bleeds, it leads”.
An example of this is highlighted in Maeve Shearlaw’s article, ‘Why did the world ignore Boko Haram’s attacks?’ in The Guardian. The report begins with an explanation of the Paris’ Charlie Hebdo Incident where, in the aftermath of the shooting which killed 17 people, global leaders joined an estimated 3.7 million people to march in a show of unity, with the support of the world’s media.
Although this is indeed a tragic event, some question why over the same weekend, Boko Haram’s massacre of 2,000 people in Baga, North-Eastern State of Borno, Nigeria was almost ignored. Terrorism analyst Max Abrahm’s tweeted “It’s shameful how the 2K people killed in Boko Haram’s biggest massacre gets almost no media coverage”.
This is where it gets truly controversial, as the term ‘Sensational Reporting’ becomes a complete blur as to what is deemed news worthy, to report on an atrocity in the west, or an atrocity in Africa.
But, since both stories ‘bleed’, which will ‘lead’?
Simon Allison of the Daily Maverick, stated, “it may be the 21st century, but African lives are still deemed less newsworthy – and, by implication, less valuable – than western lives”. Even though Allison acknowledges the sensational reporting within western media, he also goes on to address the fact that “there was [also] little African coverage”. With the absence of leaders to condemn the attacks, or talk of any solidarity movement, Allison also states that “our outrage over the Paris massacre is also a symbol of how we as Africans neglect Africa’s own tragedies, and prioritise western lives over our own”.
For instance, Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, expressed his condolences for the victims of France but remained silent on the Boko Haram attacks on Baga, Borno. In the presidents defence, according to Ethan Zuckerman, Jonathan’s “understandable wary of discussing Boko Haram, as it reminds voters that the conflict has erupted under his management and that his government has been unable to subdue the terror group”. But much of the criticism has been directed at the west, with Ignatius Kaigama, the Catholic archbishop in Central Nigeria – an area which has also suffered terror attacks – arguing “if we could stop Boko Hara, we would have done it right away. But they continue to attack, and kill and capture territories… with such impunity” #Bagatogether
Shearlaw, M. (2015). Why did the world ignore Boko Haram’s Baga Attacks. The Guardian , 13.