Libya: Partisan coverage from mainstream media

6 Mar

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

There’s something about news coverage of what’s going on in Libya that makes me uneasy.

In the UK, we might be guilty of condescension towards Fox News, which we deride for its partiality.  The University of Maryland has even commissioned a study, claiming “extended exposure to Fox News makes voters stupid”, according to one article.

But are we any better?

Blind to what’s been going on in the MENA region for years, we’ve praised the Tunisians/Egyptians/Libyans for rising up in defiance of dictators who’ve too long held them in the grip of oppressive regimes.

And yet, Western governments have ignored, even rubber stamped, Gaddafi’s dictatorship for four decades.  So long, that the recent surge of anti-Gaddafi feeling in the mainstream media smacks of guilt:  kiss-and-tells, articles ridiculing Gaddafi’s sanity and SUDDENLY, he is to be investigated for war crimes.

We ignored it as it happened, but now we’re quick to condemn it.  Take, for example, Sir Howard Davies’ resignation as director of the LSE over its links to the Gaddafi regime.

I don’t condone the Gaddafi rule, but I do want to highlight the hypocrisy surrounding the media coverage of Libya.  Where’s the neutrality and impartiality that we expect from British journalists? Where are the pro-Gaddafi voices we should be obligated to hear in the pursuit of balanced coverage?

In one article, in the Ham & High, I direct you to the first line of the second paragraph:

Ham & High: "Gaddafi son told: quit suburb NOW"

 

Alleging Said Gaddafi is a “mass murderer” is surely grounds for libel.  Until The Hague can pin a war crime on the man, we cannot hold him accountable for sins of the father.  The mainstream press is going too far.

This raises an interesting point on the relationship between the official journalist and his citizen counterpart.  Type “Libya” into Twitter and try not to drown under a surge of anti-Gaddafi sentiment:

Anti Gaddafi tweet

There’s even an “Enough Gaddafi” profile .  It seems that, suddenly, everyone has something to say about Gaddafi – and their opinions have been heavily informed by what they’ve see on the news or read in the papers.

The lone voices who dare show a pro-Gaddafi stance are remarkable in their infrequency and derided for doing so (note the disparaging quotation marks around the trivialising adjective “voluptuous”):

Pro-Gaddafi voices are undermined

And, yet, we’ve ignored what Gaddafi was doing in Libya for years and, implicitly, given his dictatorship the green light to carry on.

The citizen journalist isn’t governed by the same pressures as the mainstream media, free to express a dissenting opinion or challenge what their official counterparts are doing.  There’s a pro-Gaddafi Facebook group, for example.

Anthony Loewenstein’s blog finds space to accuse western media of over simplification: Gaddafi is “bad” and we are “good”.  He accuses reporters of defending “the government line” because “that is their only logical perspective”.   This balance is rare on the tide of public sentiment towards the Libyan leader and his family.

We need more even-handed coverage of events in Libya.  If the pro-Gaddafi voices are discredited, before we give them a platform on which to be heard, it stokes the fire of “media conspiracy”.

As Ian and Georgie have argued in turn, social media has had some part to play in what’s going on in the Middle East.  I’ve found myself turning to it, too, to provide some antidote to the assumption that “West is best”, with blogs like Anthony’s and Dissident Voice.  Social media is, at present,  the only place we’re able to hear both sides: pro-Gaddafi alongside protester.

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One Response to “Libya: Partisan coverage from mainstream media”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Dark Side of Social Media: How the Internet Can Hurt Revolutionaries « meandsocialmedia - March 24, 2011

    […] the topic of social media and the revolutions in the Middle East has spread from Georgie to Ian to Caroline, and now to me. As the title suggests, I’m going to look at the third view on how social […]

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