On November 13, a series of terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic State (IS) militants hit Paris. Within a few hours, thousands of people all over the globe took to their phones to broadcast the horrific events on social media, showing their support by using the hashtag “#prayforparis”.
In the same time span, whether on the same day or a few days earlier, numerous other countries were affected by tragedies including terrorist attacks. Suicide bombings by IS in Beirut, Lebanon killed 43 people and wounded over 200. Another suicide blast in Baghdad, Iraq killed 26 and left over 40 wounded. These events, along with others, were equally deserving of support.
Wanting to stay informed on these events, I searched online news publications like the BBC and CNN for information.
As the front pages of the websites were filling with live updates about Paris, I became angered and saddened by the fact that a few people could massacre 130 innocent civilians out of ignorance and terrorism.
I was also concerned by the lack of coverage of other terror attacks. All the coverage of Paris left me wondering about the incidents in cities like Baghdad and Beirut.
It was cruel that tragic events across the world – all equally important – had been overshadowed by the events in a single country.
I understand that one reason for the lack of international news is that western news outlets are more geographically closer to Paris than to Baghdad or Beirut. And, that if I were to look at a news outlet based in the region, such as Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar, I might have been able to find the information I was looking for.
However, it is unacceptable that news outlets, such as the BBC, understate incidents because of their western location. While the Paris attacks undoubtedly deserved coverage, so too did many other attacks.
For many, a lack in coverage is justified by saying that there is currently a large amount of conflict in places such as the Middle East. Because of this, events like those in Baghdad and Beirut are more common, and their frequency makes them less shocking. However, this is not a valid response.
News outlets encourage stereotypes by not giving equal coverage to terrorist attacks in certain areas of the world where these events are regularities, creating the perception that it’s OK if they occur in those regions.
Terrorist attacks should never be the norm, no matter where in the world they happen. Whether they occur once a year or once a day in a region, events like these are ones the whole world should know about.
In April 2015, 147 people were killed in a shooting at Garissa College University in Kenya. The Al-Shabaab militant group, based in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The events were devastating, but, somehow, news of the incident turned up the same weekend as the Paris attacks and many people believed that the event had actually occurred then. In reality, the attack took place months before, but due to poor readership, and a lack of affiliation with the East African country, the event was seen by most as one terrorist attack in a wave of many. BBC News reported that, “In total, the [Kenya] story attracted more than 10 million page views over two days – or about four times as many as it did when the attack actually happened in April.”
This is telling about the readers of news – apparently it takes a large-scale terrorist attack in the West for people to actually pay attention to the global news. An event that occurred in the West received full news coverage and the support of millions in less than a few hours. In contrast, a country outside of the western community did not, and response from the public was given seven months after the incident.
Every country deserves support, recognition and news coverage of its tragic events, no matter how frequent or infrequent.