Victims of Darfur crisis lose out in media coverage

- International activities

Report uncovering media coverage of the Darfur crisis shows that Sudanese and Arab media give little priority to the Darfur conflict and when covered, they mainly focus on the political aspects

According to the study: “A quantitative and qualitative analysis: Media coverage of the Darfur conflict in Sudanese and non-Sudanese media”, released today by International Media Support and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the coverage has been very limited.

“Significantly, the study provides evidence that the Arab media does not give any significant priority to the crisis”, was the conclusion based on accurate recordings of media coverage between November 2007 and March 2008.

When covered, the findings show, 33,7 percent of the total time devoted by electronic news media to the Darfur conflict focused on the work of the work of the diplomatic community, while conditions for refugees received only 4,7 percent of the air time.

Results for the print media painted a similar picture in the report which was produced in a joint collaboration between International Media Support, Cairo Institute of Human rights Studies, Osservatorio di Pavia, Amman Community Net and Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development.

Portrayed as an international conflict

The research also revealed that Sudanese and Arab media alike presented the Darfur stories as an international story, whereas the national dimension and root causes of the conflict received much less coverage in all media including Sudanese media.

Interviews with News editors disclosed a wide range of details about the editorial choices, which the Darfur conflict was subjected to including financial constraints in sending correspondents to the scene as well as red tape imposed by the Sudanese authorities on media attempting to cover the Darfur conflict on site.

At a round table for news editors held in Amman, Jordan, participants agreed that the Arab media coverage of the crisis in Darfur fell short of a number of aspects in the news coverage. A set of recommendations was presented in the closing statement from the meeting.

Recommendations

Based on the findings, the contributing organisations recommend that action be taken to

– Provide conflict sensitive journalism training to journalists as well as to editors and other gatekeepers so all involved in the process are on the same page;

– Engage Sudanese authorities and parties involved in the conflict in dialogue regarding the media; in particular in relation to providing access to Darfur, ensuring the safety of journalists in Darfur; and resist from controlling and censoring media content;

– Promote that the Sudanese and the Arab media adhere to objectivity, credibility, accuracy and balance in the coverage of Darfur conflict and upholding professional ethics.

– Encourage that the Sudanese and the Arab media give more attention to the conflict in Darfur and to human rights issues with interest and concern for the coverage in the field.

– Assist news outlets to ensure they have clear editorial policies regarding Darfur and conflict in general;

– Encourage journalists to seek out alternative sources of information,

– Encourage media organizations to pool resources and build cooperation for coverage of Darfur, thus enabling resources to stretch further.

Background

The main goal of the research was to analyze the quality of the communication in the non-Sudanese and Sudanese media through quantitative and qualitative analysis of the content of selected media outlets, both electronic and print, regarding the Darfur crisis. The content analysis was subsequently combined with qualitative interviews with key journalists involved in the coverage in Sudan as well as Arab media.

The report comprises the findings following monitoring and assessment of media coverage of the Darfur conflict in 21 different media outlets combined with interviews with 11 journalists and editors. The data was gathered between November 2007 and March 2008. The research was conducted in a joint cooperation between International Media Support, Cairo Institute of

Human rights Studies, Osservatorio di Pavia, Amman Community Net and Khartoum Centre for Human rights and Environmental Development.

Contributing organisations

Several institutions were involved in gathering and analysing the data for this report. The Osservatorio di Pavia developed the methodology for the media content analysis and trained and supervised the monitoring team. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies organized the quantitative and qualitative monitoring of the media content. Amman Community Net carried out the interviews with journalists and editors. International Media Support was responsible for the overall management of the project and the final editing of the report. All organisations contributed to the analysis of the data. Additionally, Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development contributed to the overall design of the project.

The project has been made available through funding provided by Ford Foundation and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.