Saturday, January 15, 2011

A word on the coverage of the riots in Tunisia

It is interesting to contrast the coverage of outlets such as CNN and the BBC for the riots in Tunisia with those that took place in Iran. Almost round the clock coverage, sympathetic montages of the protestors and in-depth analysis. Yet with Tunisia, the coverage by the BBC has mainly been focused around the 1500 British tourists there, with a spokesperson from ABTA coming on to give his views on the situation. On CNN, the issue was on for a few minutes only, as a passing concern amongst other issues in the Inside Africa programme. Even with newspapers, I distinctly recall pictures of the protestors who had died in the Iranian riots amalgamated into a picture of Neda Sultan, the girl with a photogenic face who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and became the posthumous poster-girl for the so-called "Green Revolution".

This difference in coverage is remarkable although certainly not surprising. What is slightly amusing is that people who cannot differentiate between the two approaches adopted by the Western media continue to use the language of "made for TV" revolutions which were the darling of America during the nineties and early noughties. I read one person describing what happened in Tunisia as a "Jasmine Revolution", but that adjective will not catch on because it has not been through the vetting process of the US State Department. "Velvet", "Orange" and "Cedar" became adjectives for revolutions which were given a blessing by America. Yet I think Obama is not very happy about what has happened in Tunisia, in spite of his statements calling on free and fair elections, which were too little and too late. To prematurely and naively add adjectives to a revolution that has not been blessed by the red, white and blue is what is colloquially described as "jumping the gun". I think it is also insulting to the memory of the people who died when you compare what happened in Tunisia with the sham riots that took place in Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon and Iran.

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