The media plays a key role in relaying information about events that occur within society, which means it has the power to use racial, class or gender biases to control how certain aspects are portrayed. Therefore, so it is important that we analyze the ways in which information is reproduced to us. For the purpose of this essay, I will use multiple media sources as well as a few course readings to examine the ways in which the horrific genocide of the people of Darfur was represented. After careful consideration and investigation, I found that the ways in this tragedy was reported in the media play an active role in fostering and contributing to the continuous violence that occurs in Darfur, Sudan.
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In order to recognize the implications of the medias representation surrounding the genocide that is currently taking place, one must first understand the facts of this case. Darfur is a region in western Sudan that has been subject to ethnic killings since 2003 when “ethnically Arab militias supported by Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir began massacring non-Arab people and destroying their villages” (Kranz, 2017). The government’s aim was/is to eradicate all the African tribes from Darfur in order to give sovereignty to the Arabic tribes in that region. The El-Bashir regime did this by providing weapons, funding’s and logistics to the Janjaweed, the members of the Arabic tribes that live Darfur. Despite first starting in 2003, the violence has continued to occur and has actually increased in 2016 and 2017 (Ahmadi, 2017). By definition, this is considered genocide.
Article II of the Genocide Convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group” (Shah, 2002). In this case, for religious reasoning, the government desires Sudan to be a purely Arab country so they are using forcible measures to get rid of the African-originated members of its country in order achieve utopian circumstance. The ways in which they achieved this coincide with the definition of genocide in many ways.
Firstly, Article II states that “killing members of the group” (Shah, 2002) can constitute an act of genocide. In this case, the Huffington Post reported that “well over 500,000 people have been killed directly or indirectly by the violence Khartoum has so effectively engineered” (Reeves, 2017). While this contributes to the definition of genocide, this statement they may also be considered misleading. Due of the use of the adverb “indirectly”, the digit may not be considered an accurate representation of those who died directly due to the genocide. However, readers may overlook it and chose to focus on the monstrosity of the figure. The statistics used by this media organization are effective in creating public outrage because this large figure may shock and disgust people.
Secondly, the Genocide Convention also states that “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the groups” (Shah, 2002) is also considered an act of genocide. According to the New York Times, the Sudanese government intended to attack Darfuri rebels by using “tanks, artillery and aerial bombing” (Reeves, 2016). The articles then adds that due to the inaccuracy of these attacks, there has been “heavy civilian casualties, the overwhelming majority of them African farmers and their families” (Reeves, 2016). The wording used by this media organization beats around the bush rather than directly addressing the fact that the Sudanese government most likely intended for the attacks to cause serious harm to the innocent people of Darfur in order to aid their anti-African regime.
Thirdly, Article II mentions that the act of genocide is committed when one is “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (Shah, 2002) This means that the actions against the people of Darfur coincides with the definition of genocide as, according to the Huffington Post, “30 percent of the population in Darfur remains inaccessible to humanitarian relief operations because of Khartoum’s obstructionist policies” (Reeves, 2017). By boldly outlining Khartoum’s contribution to the devastating deprivation of resources that the people of Darfur face, this media organization is rightfully assigning responsibility onto the government of Sudan. This allows readers to grasp a deeper understanding of the unfortunate corruption that occurs in Sudan.
To add, the Genocide Convention also states that “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” (Shah, 2002) contributes to the crime of Genocide. In the midst of their violent attacks against the Darfuris, the Huffington Post reports that “many tens of thousands of girls and women have been raped as sexual violence” (Reeves, 2017). As a westernized reader, one might not recognize how these measures can be intended to prevent birth. This media publication fails to explain that raping the women of Darfur can be perceived as a preventative measure because, due to religious and cultural reasons, women who have been raped and/or are no longer virgins are commonly viewed as undesirable in Sudanese society. Additionally, the trauma of these attacks leads women to avoiding men in general, which obviously makes procreation in Darfur much more difficult.
Lastly, Article II also defines genocide as “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” (Shah, 2002). In reference to Darfur, the UN estimates that, in the most recent surge of the violence “[an] additional 34,000 people were displaced (most of them women and children”. This is considered genocide as, by getting rid of the children, they leave little to no possibility of future generations to be born in Darfur.
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Undoubtedly, it is very apparent that the Sudanese government is guilty for committing the crime of genocide, yet, one can argue that the correct measures are not being taken to help end the suffering of those in Darfur. According to the Emory International Law Review, the U.N. General Assembly acknowledged that “… in order to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge [genocide], international co-operation is required” (Shah, 2002) and later established the ‘International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’ Unfortunately, the General Assembly’s views were not applied to the case of Darfur as, due to the lack of international intervention or support, the Sudanese government has continued its attacks with little to no repercussions.
For instance, the New York Times reported that several European countries such as “Sweden, France and Germany – have permitted business and commercial ties with Khartoum in spite of atrocities.” (Reeves, 2016). By continuing these commerce relations with Khartoum, these countries are more or less endorsing the governments horrible actions rather than following the U.N. General Assembly’s convention which both Sweden and France have signed. Similarly, the article added that “both [Russia and China] have trade in arms with Sudan, and China has invested heavily there, particularly in the oil industry” (Reeves, 2016). If these countries refused to trade arms with the government, Sudan would have no choice but to address and halt the violence against those in Darfur as they will have a lack of resources and funding.
Another way in which the Genocide Convention is not adequately helping the people of Darfur is through its definition. In the ‘Goettingen Journal of International Law’, the author argues that “genocide is not only a special category of crimes against humanity but also that, as a result, it is largely a redundant crime” (Murray, 2011). Murray explains that genocide is an ineffective and useless crime as many of the components that comprise the act could easily be categorized as crimes against humanity. This idea can be supported by the fact that, since a commander should be held liable for the actions of the people under his command, the international criminal court has previously Omar al-Bashir with multiple counts of genocide. Nonetheless, even though these charges were handed out almost 10 years ago, the commander of the regime has yet to take any form of accountability. Correspondingly, the ‘Emory International Law Review’ also states that the “International Criminal Court can also have the effect of deterring extremists from committing genocide against their own people by sending a strong message that these crimes will not go unpunished” (Shah, 2002). This claim can be observed as false as, since Sudan does not accept the ICC’s jurisdiction, being charged with the crime will neither punish Bashir nor do much to actually end the genocide. At most, it will just limit the president’s international mobility.
Taking all of this into consideration, even though the media once had a huge impact on this case, attention has since begun to fade away as most recent publication about the Darfur genocide dates to 2017. One can also assume that the lack of reporting could be due to the fact that “journalists, human rights investigators and humanitarian workers are routinely denied access to the area” (Wescott, 2016). Once the Sudanese government realized the overwhelming power of media they began to restrict journalism in order to keep things hidden, which only hinders the people of Darfur even more because the lack of reporting may insinuate that the genocide is no longer important and the voices of those suffering in Darfur don’t matter. Coming from a Sudanese family and witnessing the failing economy of the nation first-hand, I personally believe that the only way this humanitarian disaster will be solved is if media organizations continues to urge international co-operation in order to save the lives of the innocent people of Darfur.
- Ahmadi, N. (2017). There’s more violence in Darfur now, not less | Letters. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/02/theres-more-violence-in-darfur-now-not-less
- Kranz, M. (2017). 5 genocides that are still going on today. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/genocides-still-going-on-today-bosnia-2017-11#christians-and-muslims-in-the-central-african-republic-4
- Reeves, E. (2016). Opinion | Don’t Forget Darfur. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/opinion/dont-forget-darfur.html
- Reeves, E. (2017). Darfur, the Most “Successful” Genocide in a Century. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/darfur-the-most-successful-genocide-in-a-century_us_58fa0eb9e4b086ce58980fe3
- Shah, S. B. (2002). The oversight of the last great international institution of the twentieth century: The international criminal court’s definition of genocide. Emory International Law Review 16(1), 351-390.
- Murray, A. R. (2011). Does international criminal law still require crime of crimes: comparative review of genocide and crimes against humanity. Goettingen Journal of International Law 3(2), 589-616
- UNTC. Retrieved from https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV1&chapter=4&clang=_en
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