From Massacres to Genocide: The Media, Public Policy, and Humanitarian Crises

By Robert I. Rotberg; Thomas G. Weiss | Go to book overview

Four central themes dominate this book:

--There is a foreign policy vacuum in the post-post-Cold War era, but the existence of that vacuum signals the opportunity and necessity to reaffirm and reinforce humanitarian principles. The role of the military in humanitarian crises, which is indisputably expanding but with uneven effects, requires clarification.

--Relationships among policy-makers, humanitarian agencies, and the media are complex, even chaotic. But in the current political climate, each needs the other and ought to work better together. Indeed, the prevailing political retrenchment in international affairs throughout the West, typified by the priorities of the U.S. 104th Congress, dictates a fresh look by and at each of the three groups. Humanitarian crises should be understood and tackled from all three perspectives in concert, although workable strategies necessitate thinking about each as less than a monolithic entity.

--Public opinion matters, whether to generate the impetus for policy changes, to prepare the public for action, or to ratify policy. The media provide a central nervous system for this constituency-building process.

--New technology in information and mass media has both liberating and constraining implications for the capacity of the international community to respond to complex emergencies. Public education is still the prevailing need on which the new information age should build.


Notes
1.
Senator Diane Feinstein, quoted in the New York Times ( July 28, 1995).
2.
For a discussion of several post-Cold War crises, see Larry Minear and Thomas G. Weiss, Mercy Under Fire: War and the Global Humanitarian Community ( Boulder, Colo., 1995).
3.
Rony Brauman, "When Suffering Makes A Good Story," in Médecins Sans Frontières , Life, Death and Aid ( London, 1993), 154.
4.
For an interpretation of the sparse literature, see David Hesmondhalgh, Media Coverage of Humanitarian Emergencies: A Literature Survey ( London, 1993). See also Jonathan Benthall, Disasters, Relief and the Media ( London, 1993); and Edward Girardet (ed.), Somalia, Rwanda and Beyond: The Role of the International Media in Wars and Humanitarian Crises ( Dublin, 1995).
5.
See Michael Binyon, "Media's Tunnel Vision Attacked by Hurd," The Times ( September 10, 1993); Robin Gedye, "Hurd Hits Out Again at Media," Daily Telegraph ( September 11, 1993); Michael Leapman, "Do We Let Our Hearts Rule?" Independent ( September 15, 1993).

-10-

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