The Listening Post

Covering Ebola: Facts, fear and failures

Sorting out the science from the scare tactics – we examine the Ebola stories coming out of Africa.

This year, the world first heard of Ebola in March, when cases were reported in the West African country of Guinea. When the disease spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone the story attracted more attention but it was only when a few cases were reported in the US and Europe that the media coverage went into overdrive.

Leaving aside isolated cases in the Western world, reporters in the countries that have been most seriously affected have struggled with access.

There have been reports of police harassment and arrests in Sierra Leone and one newspaper in Liberia was closed by the government after warnings about their coverage. At the international level, some news organisations have shown a tendency to rely on white faces to tell a story that could not be much more African.

Helping us assess the media coverage of the ebola outbreak are: Robtel Pailey, an academic and researcher based in London; Abdullai Kamara, the president of the Press Union of Liberia; Foreign Policy columnist, Kalev Leetaru; Sorious Samura, an African filmmaker and journalist; and Rodney Sieh, the editor of the online newspaper, Front Page Africa.

On our radar this week: Media freedom in Russia is in question as CNN announces an end to its broadcasts there and the editor of the broadsheet Kommersant resigns amid political pressure; in Egypt two journalists and a blogger were arrested for discussing politics in a Cairo cafe; and in the US, revelations that an FBI agent impersonated a reporter and produced a fake story in 2007 – the agency confirmed and says it did nothing wrong.

This week’s feature: From placing op-eds in newspapers, to recruiting analysts and writers, to managing social media accounts for governments, communications and PR firms are behind more bylines and Twitter handles than you might realise – but does it really work? The Listening Post’s Meenakshi Ravi investigates the relationship between PR firms and image-conscious governments – and how they use the media to do their work.

We close this week’s show with rhythm devotees Shane Bang and Kevin Ke who – as researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm recently discovered – have problem solving skills that rank far above average. So when the pair were denied drum kits as kids, they picked up their pencil cases instead. Using just rulers, pens and the desks they were supposed to be doing their homework at, they have produced beats as impressive as any modern drum machine. 


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

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