Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Power of the Media

When I was younger, I used to consider Western media such as CNN as the truth and nothing else but the truth. I never questioned what was said by the capitalist media and the views they espoused became my own during conversations with family and friends. During those days, I never tried to go beyond the rhetoric to see what was NOT being said.

As time went by, however, I became much more critical of the capitalist media. I realised that a journalist or a contributor to the media is, deep down, a person who is trying to transmit their viewpoints across to the world in order to achieve certain goals. Of course, given the fact that most Western countries have adopted a predominantly capitalist economic model, it is not surprising to see that most newspapers, radio stations, and TV channels broadcast pro-capitalist messages. Furthermore, I have noticed that anything or anyone who tries to criticise capitalism is usually either ridiculed, demonised, or simply ignored. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez are the perfect examples of this phenomenon.

While the Western media barely ever takes a break from transmitting speeches about democracy and human rights by individuals such as George W. Bush or Gordon Brown, it rarely focuses on what has really happened throughout history once the sweet rhetoric of such people is brushed aside in favour of the hard facts. I will try to shed some light on this point in this post so that every time you hear a UK or US government representative talk about democracy and human rights, you will be able to go beyond the rhetoric and examine the facts.

I guess that few people have heard about a certain Sandy Mitchell. The latter was a British citizen who spent some time working in Saudi Arabia as an anaesthetic technician. In the year 2000, he was accused of being involved in two bombings that shook the country. The authorities arrested Sandy and subjected him to a great deal of torture. Back in the UK, his sister struggled almost constantly in order to push the British Government to do something in order to secure her brother's release. The Foreign Office was clearly terrified of upsetting the good commercial relations that existed between the UK and Saudi Arabia and were, therefore, very reluctant to do much in order to obtain Mr Mitchell's release. As stated by Mark Hollingsworth and Sandy Mitchell, the authors of Saudi Babylon: Torture, Corruption and Cover-Up Inside the House of Saud (2006), "It was clear from the Foreign Office reports that ministers were raising the case but there was no negotiation, lateral thinking or pressure being applied" (p. 163). The same authors added that "Secret trials, torture, no legal defence after uncorroborated confessions and arbitrary detention without charge are features of the Saudi judicial system. Crimes involving national security are so broadly defined that they encompass all non-violent opposition to the government. The Saudis refuse to allow the UN Human Rights Committee to investigate allegations of systematic torture in the Kingdom" (p. 228).

Sadly, it seems that the Western media hardly ever criticises the appalling human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. The authors of the aforementioned book stated that "Concern for human rights in Saudi Arabia ranks very low on the agenda of the US and UK governments. Apart from noting that women face discrimination and the court system is secretive, abuse of human rights is barely mentioned by the UK Foreign Office or in US State Department presentations to Congress about programmes to promote democratic values across the world" (p. 229).

The media is extremely powerful. I believe that it should do much more than simply broadcast capitalist messages. The media should trigger discussions and focus on genuine attempts to reduce the suffering of millions of people all over the world.



dwardu said...

Hawn l-aħmar :)

Aqra din!

Anonymous said...

I agree that Western media villainizes anyone who so much as suggests that capitalism is anything less than ideal. Castro and Chavez most certainly. Maybe to keep people from questioning the status quo. We're taught to be afraid of that which is different.