Darfur: Covering the forgotten story
In fact, James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, unveiled a new survey that found that more than 80 percent of the Arab public in four Arab countries believes pan-Arab satellite channels should devote more coverage to Darfur. “The myth that Arabs don’t care about Darfur is just that, a myth,” Zogby told the broadcasters.
That may be so, but some Sudanese journalists are still skeptical that their Arab colleagues will give Darfur more than a glancing look. In Cairo, columnist Warrag used Auschwitz as an analogy for Arab media denial of the reality in Darfur. “Can you imagine having your village burned and people say nothing happened to you?”
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves—any coverage of the conflict is fraught with practical issues. It’s often dangerous, it saps resources and access is difficult. But it’s a story we must cover,” CNN’s Nasser told the Abu Dhabi gathering.
Andrew Simmons of Al Jazeera English said Western and Arab journalists alike—“regardless of your branding”—have a responsibility to take a more comprehensive look at the conflict. “It is a great TV picture to look at Darfur,” he said. “But we have a responsibility to our viewers to analyze, explain, to further the political debate over Darfur.”
Which begged the ultimate question raised earlier in Cairo by an angry and frustrated representative of the Darfur Liberation Front: “Arab mass media talk about journalists being killed in Iraq. But why don’t you send journalists to be killed in Darfur?”
Lawrence Pintak is publisher/co-editor of Arab Media & Society and director of the Center for Electronic Journalism at The American University in Cairo. His most recent book is Reflections in a Bloodshot Lens: America, Islam & the War of Ideas.