Once more, newspapers and the media are reporting the attacks perpetrated by armed militiamen in and around Darfur, Sudan, in which many were killed, as well as the deteriorating tragic conditions of more than 2.5 million refugees displaced by the conflict.
The Sudanese government’s latest denials about the worsening situation and its accusations that Chad is supporting the rebels and creating “media hype”, according to its representatives, is not enough to deny that peace remains a long way away in the restive province, described by the UN Secretary General as “hell on earth”…. In the last twenty years, mass murders claimed the lives of more than 2 million Sudanese. In the province of Darfur alone, in the last three years, two hundred thousand died, while the international community failed to bring a halt to the violence.
Despite the ongoing tragedy, the conflict in Darfur remains peripheral to the concerns of the Arab media. Perhaps, it is better to say that the Arab media and we Arabs remain unable to care effectively about the African continent and its pressing problems.
It is no use relying on the verbal promises and stances that are made whenever the issue of Darfur is discussed; they are mostly posturing and do not effectively highlight the conflict or any solution to it. With Palestine, Iraq and al Qaeda constantly on the front pages, other important issues have not received their fair share of media coverage. Darfur is perhaps the most tragic example of the double standards we adopt towards matters of essential concern.
When satellite television channels competed to cover the latest developments in the Gaza Strip, which is justifiable and necessary, these stations were well-aware that the issue at stake was not difficult, since it involved Arab and Muslim victims fighting against a non-Arab and a non-Muslim occupation force.
In Iraq , coverage takes on different aspects, but many channels attempt to reduce it to a simple case of resistance versus occupation. The same applies to reports on al Qaeda, which elicits different sentiments and news angles. Perhaps the media coverage of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s death is a prime example of the difficulty of the situation.
The double standards come into play in Darfur because an African non-Arab Muslim minority is being repressed and attacked by Arab Muslim groups.
Since the beginning of the Darfur conflict, the Arab media’s coverage has varied. It is fair to say that some attempts to reflect the truth have been made, but, mainstream coverage tended to dwell on the role of the Janjaweed (Arab militias) in the conflict.
The problem extends beyond the concerns of the Arab media who seek to meets the demands of the Arab audience… It is likely that the Darfur tragedy and others in Africa do not elicit compassion in these consumers. We ought to admit that we continue to view the Darfur crisis as an issue that doesn’t concern us directly and one which we do not want to be concerned about.