When Reporting on Conflict, Western Mainstream Media is Failing


In my opinion, I struggle to find something of value in the pieces on international conflicts and wars on mainstream media channels. Don’t get me wrong, there are many catchy pieces of vocabulary, organised in an easy-to-follow structure. Why is it, however, that we insist on turning news into entertainment in such a way? For someone who takes the current international state of being very seriously, the most frustrating aspect of news production has to be the lack of analysis, the lack of expertise, the lack of nuance and the full lack of ambition. This is especially obvious to me when it comes to reporting on the Syrian conflict.

The atrocities made in Syria every single day by various groups and countries is not something of value to mainstream news. The alternative right-wing media channels popping up here and there that do write about the crimes committed to the Syrian population only articulate it  in an ideological context. This proves the illogical thinking structure of the individuals producing this material in the first place.

Since the context in which these “news” are produced and through which they are managed is seen by many people as legitimate, putting the whole blame on the readers isn’t fair. Everyone who exposes themselves to news shouldn’t be required to have an educational background in international relations or politics. In fact, the media is supposed to present this to them in an interesting and objective way through the pieces.

So, where is the publicity for people like Jan Oberg?

I happen to have had the privilege to speak with one truly beautiful human being, a distinguished professor and extraordinary researcher who has dedicated his life to study peace on a global scale – his name is Jan Oberg. He is the co-founder and director of Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research (TFF), “an independent think tank, a global network that aims to bring about peace by peaceful means”.

The goal of this unit of experts is “conflict-mitigation, peace research and education to improve conflict-understanding at all levels and promote alternative security and global development ideals based on nonviolent politics, economics, sustainability and an ethics of care” – which is something you’d think media houses would appreciate, right?

Well, as previously said, go and have a look at what the largest mainstream media outlets report on in relation to Syria. You’ll see the full lack of critical thinking and genuine will to report, without drawing the reporting in line with a country’s foreign policy. There’s hardly any reporting on Syria as being involved in a full-scale international war, and the part that other countries are playing in the conflict.

In the latest TFF Press info message from April 10 of this year, the main topic regarded the accusation by mainstream media that “it was the government of Syria that was responsible for the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun”. Not many people missed the immense reporting on this issue. However, where is this critical voice put forward?

Even more so, in 2016 Jan Oberg was the only Nordic representative in Syria, yet he was of zero interest to the Nordic media. In a presentation from February of this year, he explains the struggle that he as well as colleagues encounter in relation to both global and local media whom refuse to report on sensitive aspects of certain international subjects.

In the TFF Press Info #405 from February of this year, the focus of mainstream media is once again questioned through the eyes of Aleppo and the global dimensions of Syria. In this report, it is stated that “a typical, deficient or irrelevant approach to international conflict is to a) focus on the violence but not the underlying conflicts it’s a symptom of; b) to apportion guilt and c) believe that we will solve the conflict if ‘good’ violence is used to defeat ‘evil’ violence”. In my opinion, this perfectly describes where the mainstream media have put its focus in regards to Syria’s conflict.

How about the suspicious White Helmets and their questionable activity in Syria? What’s up with the Syrian Free Army; who are these guys? What about the visual reporting of Syria, photographs created by Jan Oberg and with zero media focus? How liberated are the people of Aleppo feeling these days?

None of these topics of everyday life in Syria are being touched on by the mainstream Western media. Our journalists are failing the ordinary people of Aleppo, and failing to report on the conflict in any kind of constructive way.

Reaching out to people – Where is the hope?

Despite the situation with Western mainstream media today, we are lucky to live in a world where internet enables us all to interact, share, question and analyse information. Young media channels are giving a way for this to happen.

As in the case of TFF, the think-tank currently has 10 000 subscribers and growing, indicating that peace really is an interesting topic, and that objective high-quality research really is important to people. In addition to this, TFF is fully independent, with private donations as only financial source. Highlighting organisations like these, and giving way to critical thinking and deep analyses, is our responsibility.

It may not always be pretty. We may have to question every report on Syria that has ever been made and/or highlighted by mainstream media. It may produce some emotional reactions here and there. Yet in all of this, we have to remember one thing – if we’re not to report on this responsibly, then we are all active participants in the Syrian war.

Shall we not try help solving it instead?

I write about all things Security Studies. Often passionately.

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