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Darfur: Mass Media Framing of International Intervention, 2003-2007
Unformatted Document Text:  volume of coverage was too low to have Aalerted@ the mass public to the crisis (Sudan, Angola, Sierra Leone, and Burundi), or evaluative commentary was either indifferent (Liberia) or overtly opposed to an intervention (Rwanda, and Haiti). 1 While overall they concluded that Athe >CNN effect= appears more hyperbole than fact,@ and pointed out that while campaigns to influence decision-making through media-mobilized mass public opinion offered at best a remote chance of success, they Aappeared to be about the only strategy available@ to groups pressing for an international intervention. Significantly in the case of Darfur, we have seen a major application of this strategy by a number of parties interested in promoting international intervention. Our goal in this paper is to describe how successful they were in getting their messages reflected in media coverage. MEDIA COVERAGE OF SUDAN/DARFUR: THE LITERATURE In its relatively brief existence as an independent state, Sudan, the largest country in Africa, has had to deal with two large-scale humanitarian crises. The first is the decades-long civil war in the south, beginning in 1955 and, with one period of peace, ending in 2005 (see Sidahmed and Sidahmed, 2005; Meredith, 2005, Chapters 20 and 31), and the second is conflict in the western region of Darfur which began early in 2003 and is still ongoing. While the extent and nature of media coverage of these two conflicts has varied considerably, interestingly in neither case has this coverage received high marks from a variety of commentators. With respect to the civil war in the south, the European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council (ESPAC) 2 has charged that A[m]edia coverage of Sudan, and Sudanese conflict, beset as most conflicts are by considerable propaganda and disinformation, provides observers with example after example of remarkably poor journalism.@ Moreover, ESPAC attributes important consequences to these journalistic shortcomings: 5

Authors: Sidahmed, Abdel., Briggs, E.. and Soderlund, Walter.
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volume of coverage was too low to have Aalerted@ the mass public to the crisis (Sudan, Angola,
Sierra Leone, and Burundi), or evaluative commentary was either indifferent (Liberia) or overtly
opposed to an intervention (Rwanda, and Haiti).
1
While overall they concluded that Athe >CNN
effect= appears more hyperbole than fact,@ and pointed out that while campaigns to influence
decision-making through media-mobilized mass public opinion offered at best a remote chance
of success, they Aappeared to be about the only strategy available@ to groups pressing for an
international intervention. Significantly in the case of Darfur, we have seen a major application
of this strategy by a number of parties interested in promoting international intervention. Our
goal in this paper is to describe how successful they were in getting their messages reflected in
media coverage.
MEDIA COVERAGE OF SUDAN/DARFUR: THE LITERATURE
In its relatively brief existence as an independent state, Sudan, the largest country in
Africa, has had to deal with two large-scale humanitarian crises. The first is the decades-long
civil war in the south, beginning in 1955 and, with one period of peace, ending in 2005 (see
Sidahmed and Sidahmed, 2005; Meredith, 2005, Chapters 20 and 31), and the second is conflict
in the western region of Darfur which began early in 2003 and is still ongoing. While the extent
and nature of media coverage of these two conflicts has varied considerably, interestingly in
neither case has this coverage received high marks from a variety of commentators.
With respect to the civil war in the south, the European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council
(ESPAC)
2
has charged that A[m]edia coverage of Sudan, and Sudanese conflict, beset as most
conflicts are by considerable propaganda and disinformation, provides observers with example
after example of remarkably poor journalism.@ Moreover, ESPAC attributes important
consequences to these journalistic shortcomings:
5


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