Sunday, September 02, 2012

On News Manipulation.
Until these last months, living through the Mali Crisis, I had never realized to what extent news is a commercial commodity; that what happens needs to be rearranged so it will sell more news papers, raise viewing figures, or indeed manage public opinion. Certain items are flying against the prevailing wind, so they are not of any interest.
An example already mentioned before is Holland Cotter’s article in the New York Times about the archeological site Djenne Djenno – see blog August 8- Although Cotter has my email and could contact me, or indeed Samake at the Mission Culturelle before writing his article he does not. He has already written this article in his head. It paints a worrying picture of the Djenne Djenno site: it is being neglected and artefacts are being sold off because of the Crisis. This sells. If his article had instead mentioned that in June this year, well after the overthrow of the ATT government, and well into the Crisis, a project sponsored by the Prince Klaus Foundation of the Netherlands is planting in the region of 10 000 trees to save the site from erosion, it would have been an item that flew in the face of the prevailing wind, and it would not be given the news space.

Now, take this more pressing matter of Douentza, the town some 190 k north of Mopti/Sevare, on the road to Timbuktu. This town has suddenly been reported in the international press as ‘having been taken by the Islamists.’
I sat up during the night reading the reports on the BBC site on the CNN site and various news sites. Not one of these sites mentions that Douentza was already taken ! Douentza has formed part of the occupied Malian territories since April.
Our friend Mohammed was the prison manager in Douantza in April when the Islamists and the MNLA were on the move towards the town. He took the 35 inmates for whom he was responsible and decamped to Djenne prison from the prison in Douentza . All government workers and all services fled the largely defenseless town and within hours the black flag of the MNLA was raised on the Mairie. This flag no longer flies over Douentza, the MNLA having been forced to abandon their positions to the Islamists.

What happened just now is that one group of Islamists – the MUJAO- have kicked out another militia group which was regarded as traitors to the ‘Cause’ (which is total Sharia in Mali) and suspected of harbouring Malian Army spies. This probably makes little difference in the larger picture, but it is reported in a sensational manner as if it were a new conquest: BBC News - Mali Islamist rebels in control of northern Mali seize the strategic town of Douentza, moving closer to the country's government-held south.

The worrying thing is that the Minister of Defense, speaking last night on Malian TV, did not mention the glaring fact that Douantza had formed part of the occupied territories either! And why would this be? He is using the media. It suits Mali that people think that the Islamists are on the move south. It will hopefully bring some much needed assistance...


Blogger David said...

That's just what I thought when I read the 'news' about Douentza. What was especially inaccurate was the map on the BBC article showing Douentza as south of the occupied area. Thanks for clarifying.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

I always think of you now as a holy grail of course correction, and wondered what you thought of Nossiter's latest article, here:

1:09 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Hi David and Susan,
I have read the article and this time I have nothing to add! It seems like good reporting to me, as indeed Nossiter's articles are.
Personally I am concerned about the initiatives made with talking and negociation- I don't think the North is negociable- Negociation with these groups give them some sort of acceptability- can we accept Al Quaida and/or Sharia law under any circumstsances at all? If not,- and I believe not- then what is the point of talking about it?

3:44 AM  
Blogger Howard Lane said...

Hi Sophie

Do you read Pambazuka News? They are well respected and I would think they'd be interested in your on-the-ground news updates

1:19 PM  
Blogger David said...

Sophie, you're quite right about negotiation - first stop shariah law and links with Al-Qaida. But there seems, from that NYT article, to be a surprising amount of behind-the-scenes liaison going on. And meanwhile the proposals drag on and tens of thousands suffer...

1:22 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

It's good to know Nossiter's article was on target--though I will always know to come to you for a reality check. It does seem he is now staying on this story, and if the reporting is sensible, that's good indeed. But of course reporting is one thing, the real life issues are another, and there all seems so difficult. My thoughts are with you and with Mali.

11:39 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home