Opinion: I am a black and African woman. It’s time to change the channel on Ukrainian media coverage
It wasn’t so much what he was saying, it was more what was implied; that not all lives have the same value. And this idea – the belief that some races are superior to others – is a fundamental tenet of racism. It is alarming to me that Sakvarelidze was not challenged during his interview.
According to the narrative she believes, “unthinkable things” only happen in “third world countries” (now an obsolete and derogatory term, someone should tell her), and that narrative is perpetuated by the type of stories she, and many like her, have heard about the continent.
In Africa, these are the stories of conflict in Ethiopia, insurgency in Mozambique, electoral violence in Uganda and recent coups in Mali, Chad, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Guinea Bissau. But it’s clear that far too many people don’t pay attention to them because the people in these stories aren’t rich or from the North.
These examples have shown us that the global media are complicit in perpetuating racist narratives, by failing to encourage diversity in their newsrooms and by giving an unlimited platform to influential journalists and spokespersons with implicit biases. which are not disputed. But rather than dwell on that, I want to share some of the facts that should make us all rethink the traditional, stereotypical ways of dismissing non-white, non-rich countries and their people.
The traditional world order is undergoing a sea change, driven by Covid-19, China, Russia and movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. The new world order offers the world an opportunity to rethink what little it knows about the rest of the world.
When they do, the representations are often negative and stereotyped. According to the report, most mentions of Africa (43%) appeared in national or local news and tended to be “hard” reporting that often fueled the stereotype. After politics (32%), crime received the most mentions (16%), while business and economics accounted for only 8% of media coverage.
Over 60 research articles, reports, books, academic journals that we have analyzed since the year 2000 written about Africa in the media have told us that poverty, conflict, corruption, disease and lack of leadership were the five frames through which most stories about Africa are told.
Don’t ignore the data that shows that there are over 400 companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more in Africa, or that the second fastest growing tourism market in the world is right here in Africa.
It’s also unlikely that many northerners would know about any of this, as it doesn’t fit the narrative, both were fed about non-white “third world countries”.
But that doesn’t fit the lingering image of a broken continent where nothing works and its sad, dependent peoples lack the agency to change things. The truth is that there is a vibrant new energy and entrepreneurial spirit on the continent, a story that is largely untold, and one that is evidenced by the low regard with which those in the Global North hold us.
It is a hidden story because its heroes are neither white nor from “up there”. But the way the world is changing, that won’t matter much anymore. Everyone, including the media covering the Ukraine invasion, should pay attention.