The Listening Post

South Sudan and the media of conflict

Is there a hierarchy of knowledge in reporting about Africa, with more authority given to international journalists?

When fighting broke out a month ago in the world’s youngest country, South Sudan, the story was framed as just another tribal power struggle coming out of Africa. A more precise analysis is that the conflict is really political in nature – a fallout between the president and the vice president, with some ethnic elements fighting it out on the ground.

Those who are critical of the media say that, when it comes to Africa, all too often international news outlets resort to the same formula – reducing just about any conflict to the tribal level, which seems to explain everything without actually telling us anything.

The question is why? One theory posits that in the world of journalism, there is a hierarchy of knowledge in Africa, that international reporters are seen as more authoritative than domestic journalists, whose local knowledge provides them with a better understanding of the story, but who lack the resources to effectively report it.

With peace talks underway in neighbouring Ethiopia and fighting continuing in South Sudan, the story is at a critical point and deserves more analytical coverage. So, who controls the narrative? Our starting point for this week’s Newsdivide is Juba, and the coverage of the situation there.

Our Newsbytes this week: Russia has expelled an American journalist for the first time since the Cold War; in Turkey, the media fallout from the political corruption scandal has cost a high profile journalist there his job, after he dared to challenge the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan live on TV; and in Greece, the muckraking Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis is back in court for articles he wrote on a real estate scandal involving an ancient monastery and one of its senior monks.

Israel’s newspaper industry

Israeli papers are dealing with a relative newcomer: a free daily called Israel Hayom (Israel Today). It is owned by an American casino mogul who is betting that the publication will help his favourite politician, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stay in power.

A little more than five years after its launch, Israel Hayom is now the most widely read paper in the country and it is hitting some of Israel’s oldest publications where it hurts; in their circulation figures. The Listening Post’s Flo Phillips reports on the newspaper that is having an impact on print journalism and politics in Israel.

Israel made other headlines this week too – that got slightly lost in the news of the death of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The Netanyahu government announced the construction of 1,400 new houses and apartments on Palestinian land on the West Bank. That development sets up this candid camera-style comedy sketch created for a satirical show on the BBC called The Revolution Will be Televised. Actors, posing as construction workers, tell local businesses that the Israeli embassy in London is exercising its biblical right to take over their properties. People are furiously clicking on this one and the comments section ended up being a free-for-all over the so-called peace process. The Israeli Embassy’s Extension is our web video of the week.


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