Paris vs Baga: who chooses what is in the news?

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Paris vs. Baga: Who chooses what is in the news?

By Virgil Hawkins


Maya-Anaïs Yataghène under a Creative Commons Licence

The world was ‘shocked’ by the attacks in Paris. 17 people died, mostly at the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo. There was a lot of news about it around the world, many people spread the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ message of solidarity, and the leaders from 40 countries went to a march in Paris.

Important organisations outside France, like the BBC and the New York Times, said that this attack shows a ‘new age of terrorism’.

In the news, they have talked about every detail of the attack and the attacker and victims. Many people are discussing the issue of terrorism and freedom of speech.

Newspapers said the attacks are a ‘war on freedom’. There were photos and information about the victims in news around the world, from the US, to Japan and New Zealand.

But there was very little news about the mass killings in early January around the northeast Nigerian town of Baga, by the rebel group Boko Haram.

Boko Haram took control of a military outpost in Baga, and then attacked with bombs and guns. They killed everyone around the town, including children and the elderly.

No-one knows how many people died. It could be hundreds or as many as two thousand. This is the probably the worst thing Boko Haram have ever done.

As they killed so many people, it is very worrying that the world news is not reporting it. The New York Times had only one article about it, called ‘Dozens said to die in Boko Haram attack’.

But there was no follow-up, to confirm how many died or give any opinions.

The BBC had an online article where a Nigerian archbishop criticized ‘the West’ for not writing about the Baga massacre (in contrast to writing so much about the attacks in France). But at the time the BBC had published only three online articles about the Baga massacre.

The media was not even interested enough to count the victims and had no interest at all in their names or more information about them.

There is very little interest from the public or from political leaders outside Nigeria. There are no ‘I am Baga’ slogans around the world.

So most people probably don’t even know about Baga.

So how are Paris and Baga so different? Why does one show a ‘new age of terrorism’, and the other one is not even interesting enough to write about?

In Baga, they looked for and shot normal people, like in Paris. In Baga, the killers said they were defending Islam against Western actions and influences, like in Paris.

The name Boko Haram means ‘Western education is forbidden’, and the group supports the Islamic State.

We must be careful about using the word ‘terrorism’, but what happened in Baga, Nigeria, was as much terrorism as the attacks in Paris, France.

The reasons for the differences in news reporting are related to where the attacks were and who died.

It is a sad reality that, for news in the West (including Australia and New Zealand) white Europeans are more important than poor black Africans.

Also, it is more difficult to get access to Baga, a remote town in Nigeria, under the control of Boko Haram. But reporters have still been able to physically get to the place to report.

In Baga, reporters could still reach the survivors who ran away. But they have not – this shows that it is not important in the news. There are not many Western reporters in Nigeria.

The massacre in Baga was not the first by Boko Haram. And it was in a conflict situation. This is different to the massacre in Paris. A situation is less interesting in the news if it happens often. But the conflict in Israel-Palestine is still in the news.

The Baga massacre is the worst in the history of Boko Haram. Also, recently, Boko Haram used a girl of ten as a suicide bomber in a marketplace, in a different town in northeast Nigeria. But this was not interesting enough to be in the news either.

It is important to protect journalists from intimidation. But it is very important that we work towards creating a world where journalism is more powerful than killing, and where journalists are not killed.

But at the same time, we should also work to create a world where journalists do not choose only to write about some people.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL (AND MORE INFORMATION): (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).