Humanitarian crisis not covered by media will last longer

Humanitarian crisis not covered by media will last longer

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INTERVIEW The NGO Care France publishes for the fourth year a barometer of "forgotten" international media crises

The media has very little coverage of certain environmental or economic crises.

For the fourth consecutive year, the humanitarian association CARE released its report "Suffering in Silence" on Tuesday, a barometer that identifies the ten humanitarian crises "forgotten" by the media in 2019.

To compile this list, the NGO, with the help of an external cabinet, examined the mentions of 40 crises recorded by the UN in media in English, French, German, and since this year in Spanish and in Arabic. Two and a half million items have been counted in crises affecting at least one million people.

Of the ten “forgotten” crises of 2019, nine are occurring on the African continent: drought and malnutrition in Madagascar, Zambia, Eritrea and Kenya; conflict and security crisis in the Central African Republic and Burkina Faso; extreme poverty in Burundi; environmental crisis and sexual violence in Ethiopia; food insecurity and displacement in the Lake Chad basin ... The tenth is the North Korean crisis, which returns in the report after having been extensively addressed in 2018. Most of these crises have been going on for a long time, and are at the crossroads of issues political, conflicting, economic and above all environmental. However, they are all subcontracted by the media taken into account in the study, with variations depending on the language. Philippe Levêque, director general of the NGO CARE France, analyzes the reasons for this "oversight" for 20 Minutes.

Why has the CARE association produced this report on "forgotten" crises?

With this report, we are trying to change the way the media view these forgotten crises. We see on the ground that there is a very strong correlation between what the media reports and the interest of the international community in a crisis. A crisis that the media does not speak of will last longer and countries, institutions, private actors, and even NGOs will give it less help.

The international community is moving less, but so are local players. In some countries, if the media do not cover the issues of minorities or remote provinces, central governments are even less interested. And when a crisis is linked to a conflict, the repression is often all the more violent since there are no eyes to report on it.

What explains why these crises are not or hardly covered by the media?

We are extremely focused on our own problems. For example, on climate change, the media will report on the youth movement, the pressure at home. But very few will care about the consequences of climate change that people are already living elsewhere. What happens in Africa, for example, will one day affect us.

The political context can also play on the media coverage of a crisis. This year's study covers the period from January to November 2019. In the 2018 study, North Korea was not part of the barometer. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un exchanged pleasantries, met, and the media focused more on North Korea [where about 10.9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN] . We are interested when there is a nuclear risk, why not the rest of the time? Because it does not sell, it does not make an audience, no doubt ...

The French media employ fewer and fewer permanent correspondents abroad. Can the economic difficulties that the media have suffered for several years explain why certain crises are under-covered?

Yes, I can see it when you approach the media. We are told that there is no budget to send journalists there. The media revolution is having a real impact on the means allocated to send people there. In 2019, our study found 612 occurrences for Madagascar, compared to 2.7 million for PSG or 3.1 million for Real Madrid. Of course, you also have to follow football clubs abroad or Eurovision in Israel, but that is striking.

Among the ten crises you have identified, the impact of the ecological crisis is very significant. Do you think that certain subjects are nothave not treated because can be considered "discouraging"?

I do not think so. Of course, we can talk about a crisis by saying "it's a catastrophe, it's fucked up". But when we go there, we also see solutions, initiatives, resilience among the populations concerned. For example, we see beautiful stories on the ground about the courage of women who change farming practices or how to regenerate mangroves. We can learn a lot from the populations who are already experiencing the ecological crisis head-on.

I would like the media to also watch the glass half full. There are answers to these crises, but these answers from the people of the South will only last if we, in the countries of the North, change our economic model and our mode of consumption.

Can the migration crisis we are talking about in Europe be an opportunity to address the reasons for exile? First of all, let’s remember that the migration crises first concern the countries of the South. The media is talking a lot about the number of migrants arriving in Europe, while there are three times as many arriving in neighboring countries of the crisis areas, or within countries.

Furthermore, there is very little interest in the causes of displacement. The media, and even more politicians, are interested in migration first of all from the "scary" angle. We'd better work on the underlying causes of exile. Nobody leaves smiling.

We must focus on these crises, and we must do so over time, not just when we publish this barometer. We must also focus on solutions more than on disasters, and make those who have no voice testify, give voice to the people present on the ground. We can consider that reporting is a form of aid, like international aid, like humanitarian aid.


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