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Darfur: Mass Media Framing of International Intervention, 2003-2007
Unformatted Document Text:  appearance of Congressman Tom Lantos, Congressional input was largely absent, and consequently there was little official political pressure for the U.S. to pursue a more active role in Darfur. 15 In short, during 2004-2005 Darfur was portrayed on television news as a truly horrendous situation in Africa which merited concern, but for which there were no easy solutions-- and, moreover, thinking about more difficult solutions was not encouraged. Only in 2006 do we see, along with more coverage, the appearance of the American President and a more robust advocacy of a Western/UN-led humanitarian intervention, to which it was felt the U.S. should make some kind of meaningful contribution. In our opinion, The New York Times played a far more significant role than did television news in getting the Darfur conflict front and centre in the minds of the American mass public and also to link this coverage to an international “responsibility to protect.” 16 While much of this effort has to be credited to the individual efforts of Op-Ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, journalists do not operate in a vacuum and Kristof’s editors and publisher at The New York Times had to approve and finance his many trips to Darfur and the multiple columns that resulted from these trips. And it was they of course who ultimately decided to publish an unusually large number of letters-to-the-editor dealing with Darfur, almost half of which called for the greater U.S. action that Kristof’s columns clearly were intended to inspire. 17 However, let us not delude ourselves into thinking that these efforts resulted in what can be considered a “success.” As ABC’s Bill Blakemore commented, “[t]he world’s record in preventing genocide is a record of failure,” and in this regard Darfur appears to be no exception (ABC, 2007, Apr. 10). Minus the deployment of a small African Union monitoring force (widely portrayed as being ineffective) and the imposition of sanctions (not including oil), nothing significant was done with respect to international intervention in Darfur until the 25

Authors: Sidahmed, Abdel., Briggs, E.. and Soderlund, Walter.
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appearance of Congressman Tom Lantos, Congressional input was largely absent, and
consequently there was little official political pressure for the U.S. to pursue a more active role
in Darfur.
15
In short, during 2004-2005 Darfur was portrayed on television news as a truly
horrendous situation in Africa which merited concern, but for which there were no easy
solutions-- and, moreover, thinking about more difficult solutions was not encouraged. Only in
2006 do we see, along with more coverage, the appearance of the American President and a
more robust advocacy of a Western/UN-led humanitarian intervention, to which it was felt the
U.S. should make some kind of meaningful contribution.
In our opinion, The New York Times played a far more significant role than did television
news in getting the Darfur conflict front and centre in the minds of the American mass public
and also to link this coverage to an international “responsibility to protect.”
16
While much of
this effort has to be credited to the individual efforts of Op-Ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof,
journalists do not operate in a vacuum and Kristof’s editors and publisher at The New York
Times had to approve and finance his many trips to Darfur and the multiple columns that
resulted from these trips. And it was they of course who ultimately decided to publish an
unusually large number of letters-to-the-editor dealing with Darfur, almost half of which called
for the greater U.S. action that Kristof’s columns clearly were intended to inspire.
17
However, let us not delude ourselves into thinking that these efforts resulted in what can
be considered a “success.” As ABC’s Bill Blakemore commented, “[t]he world’s record in
preventing genocide is a record of failure,” and in this regard Darfur appears to be no exception
(ABC, 2007, Apr. 10). Minus the deployment of a small African Union monitoring force
(widely portrayed as being ineffective) and the imposition of sanctions (not including oil),
nothing significant was done with respect to international intervention in Darfur until the
25


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