Nigeria Kano police car bomb
The Listening Post

The media enigma of Boko Haram

What is Boko Haram’s media strategy and its role in the battle for Nigeria’s hearts and minds?

It has been a bloody start to 2012 for Nigeria and that is largely down to a group that is labelled Boko Haram in the global media. Translated, Boko Haram means “western education is sin”, which is far catchier than the group’s official title: “People committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings and jihad”.

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a number of bombings in Nigeria over the years. Since 2009, more than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to it, 200 of those have come this year alone. Despite all the bloodshed, very little is known about the secretive group or its members.

Journalists struggle to make contact with the group and more than often simply have to wait to be approached. And that approach is not aided by the notion that Boko Haram reportedly views the media as the embodiment of the western secular values it opposes.

This week’s News Divide starts in Northern Nigeria with Boko Haram’s latest deadly bombing and how the group’s media enigma is creating a climate of fear in the country.

In our Newsbytes: Maikel Nabil, an Egyptian blogger considered the country’s first prisoner of conscience in the post-Mubarak era, has been released from prison. Iran’s English news channel, Press TV, has had its licence revoked in the UK. The signal of Roj TV, a Kurdish channel based in Denmark, has been dropped by a European satellite operator. And for the first time in its 71-year history, the Chicago Sun-Times says it will not endorse a political candidate in the upcoming US presidential elections.

Nigeria’s alternative news source

Nigeria has a diverse and vociferous media landscape. But a constant criticism it receives is that most media outlets are loyal to the government or their corporate owners. As a result, certain news stories are under-reported in Nigeria. One website that is able to report news – and sometimes make news – is Sahara Reporters. That is largely because it is not based in Nigeria.

The site’s editor works out of New York and relies on ordinary Nigerians for stories, photographs, videos and even blogs that he posts on the site. The distance puts his site beyond the reach of Nigeria’s rich and powerful, making it something of a phenomenon in the country. The Listening Post’s Meenakshi Ravi looks at the alternative news source that is getting Nigerians clicking for their information.

For our Internet Video of the Week we feature a video from Mark Fiore – one of the finest, sharpest online satirists out there. In one of his latest animations entitled Distract-o-tron he weighs in on the US Republican contest and how it is being covered in the media. Campaign coverage tends to focus on the candidates and not their policies. Fiore’s animation amusingly points out how this media fixation on the tittle tattle can detract from the real, more relevant issues affecting people at home and abroad.


Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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