Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Afshin Rattans, "The international media and Sudan," Pambazuka News, June 11, 2009.

In an interview with British television producer Colette Valentine and media consultant Ali Gunn following their visit to Sudan, Afshin Rattansi discusses Western media distortions of actual conditions in the Darfur region. Emphasising that they saw no evidence of genocide and were free to talk to whomever they chose within government camps, Valentine and Gunn state that much of the media's reporting on Darfur is 'cheap and lazy'. The interviewees also report that the International Criminal Court's (ICC) indictment of President Omar al-Bashir has actually increased the president's popularity among the electorate, and that they themselves were confronted over the international media's portrayal of Darfur. --Pambazuka editors

George Clooney, Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Cindy Crawford, Bono, Michael Caine, Claudia Schiffer, Bob Geldof, Hugh Grant, Mia Farrow, Mick Jagger and so many others have expressed their solidarity with the people of the oil-rich region of Darfur. A few weeks ago, Democrats John Lewis of Georgia, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Lynn Woolsey of California, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts were all arrested as they demonstrated against the Sudanese government. When Colin Powell used the word genocide in 2004, it kicked off a $1 billion-a-year international aid programme, much higher than that afforded Somalia or Congo.

But why?

In the past few months, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has charged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is appealing the setting aside of genocide charges, claiming that there is 'ongoing genocide' in Darfur. The Sudanese government has expelled some foreign aid groups, accusing them of espionage. They include Oxfam, Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières. According to the Save Darfur Campaign, it was the relief organisations that provided clean water, food and medical attention to roughly 1.5 million people. The Sudanese government claims these aid-agencies deliberately exclude Arab Darfuris in their ranks, exacerbating sectarian tensions.

And at the moment, President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration is on a diplomatic tour, while Britain is sending $185 million in aid and $140 million in 'peacekeeping' money.

Collette Valentine, a TV producer visiting from the United Kingdom, and Ali Gunn, a British media consultant, last week returned from Darfur, where they attended the first 'International Conference on the Challenge Facing Women in Darfur' in Al-Fasher in the north. Valentine says that articles about Darfur in the international press make her feel as if she visited a completely different region, a completely different country. It all adds weight to the thesis of Columbia University’s Professor Mahmood Mamdani that there is something very murky about Western aid agencies’ insistence that there has been a genocide in Darfur, and that at the heart of the campaigns around Darfur is the culmination of a powerful, imperial desire to suppress citizenry from US high school classrooms to right across the developing world.

  I was appalled that so much reporting in our newspapers has no basis in reality. Cheap and lazy journalism at its worst.
Ali Gunn

Read the interview here =>

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