I couldn’t have agreed with it more.
Since the awful terrorist attacks that shook Paris on Friday November 13th, I have read so many stories, comments, tweets etc about it that I didn’t feel I could contribute much further to the discussion. I didn’t particularly want to when comments about the attacks quickly turned into attacking anyone who showed any compassion for the lives that had been lost. If you added the French flag filter over your profile picture to show solidarity with French people then you acted on par with a corporate white supremacist. If you hadn’t tweeted about the Beirut suicide bombs the day before you tweeted about the Paris attacks then you were a hypocrite and a selective griever. God forbid you dared urge people to #PrayForParis…
I get it. There’s definitely a need to challenge the narrative presented to us by the media. The Delhi-based blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh beautifully reminded us to pray for the world and we should sympathise with innocent lives lost irrespective of their colour, ethnicity, beliefs or religion. Who should do all of this? The media? Ideally. But in the meantime, it’s our job to do so.
There is information everywhere but it’s up to us to decide how much of it we want to read and the measure in which we want to analyse it. I was amazed when I saw people on Facebook posting stories about the Kenya school massacre that took place in April. Apparently the story demonstrates that African lives don’t matter because of the lack of media coverage. This horrible attack happened while I was in Nigeria and was widely reported here but it was also widely covered by international news outlets at the time. If you just learned about what happened in Garissa University College don’t blame the media, blame yourself.
When I found out I was one of the Good Morning Nigeria anchors I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Eavesdrop on any heated discussion from a group of security people, bus commuters, television anchors or just about anyone in Nigeria with a heart-beat and you’ll likely hear them discussing a political issue. I’m tasked to be an expert in the field of politics. I may love politics but it’s not easy dissecting stories for people who already know the background of much of what I dissect. If I solely relied on the BBC, CNN or Facebook posts to tell me what was going on with the pro-Biafra protests in Abia State or the fuel scarcity crisis we are plagued with or how likely it is that APC’s promise of a N5,000 unemployment benefit for Nigerian youths would be fulfilled, I would be mute for most of our show. I find out about what’s happening in Nigeria not just because it’s my job to but because I want to know.
Likewise, with the Beirut bomb-blasts that took place a day before the Paris attacks, if you didn’t know about it, it’s because you didn’t watch/listen/read the news that day or you didn’t pay attention when you saw the headline or because you simply didn’t really care. I say this because of the tweet below and all the other similar tweets/comments/stories/poems I read — it’s untrue. What happened to fact-checking?
There is another reason the bomb-blasts in Beirut may not have struck a chord as much as the Paris attacks and it’s the same reason I can at times skim through a story about a bomb-blast in Nigeria — we’ve become desensitised to suffering when it’s in places the media routinely reports on. I’d likely pay more attention to stories about bomb-blasts in Nigeria if I saw it happening in Lagos where I live rather than Maiduguri that is unfortunately frequently bombed…This is wrong but it’s true.
We no longer have to wait for the media to tell us what’s going on. There are citizen journalists out there that even influential media outlets rely on to know what’s going on in the world. If you want to know what’s going on in Africa or anywhere else outside of the West then look for the information. Ask a cab driver, follow analysts on twitter, download a history book for context and then share what you find out with the rest of us. The ball as they say is in your court.