Africa Coverage Continues to Lag

1 December 1990
Africa News Service (Durham)
analysis

Only Somalia, with thousands of U.S. troops on the ground, gets attention.

An analysis of Africa, Asia and Latin America reporting broadcast by the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" on public television last year and a comparison of National Public Radios (NPR) coverage of Africa and the former Yugoslavia during January and February of this year show that Africas 54 nations continue to get short shrift from news decisionmakers. Africa News Service compiled the information as part of our periodic survey of media treatment of Africa in the United States.

In the first half of 1992, the NewsHour carried more stories on Latin America and almost twice as many on Asia as on Africa. But after President George Bush announced a U.S. airlift to Somalia in August, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Somalis found a more prominent place in U.S. news lineups generally. Coverage on MacNeil/Lehrer skyrocketed, with much of the reporting focusing on U.S. involvement and on American personnel.

From January through June, the NewsHour did two reports on Somalia and seven on other African issues. From July through November, the program broadcast 16 reports on Somalia. In December, after U.S. troops were sent in, 19 Somalia stories were aired. Coverage of the rest of Africa dropped to three reports for the final six months of the year.

During the first two months of this year, NPRs morning and evening news programs carried 136 reports about the former Yugoslavia. In the same period, NPR did 54 stories on Africa, over half of them about the U.S.-led intervention in Somalia. Twenty-six stories were devoted to other countries on the continent.

Among the African stories receiving scant attention in the U.S. media are the crisis in Zaire, a mineral-rich nation the size of the United States east of the Mississippi, where a U.S.-installed dictator is resisting popular pressure for democratic change; the famine in southern Sudan, which threatens an estimated 3 million lives; the war in Angola, currently the worlds most deadly armed conflict; the fragile peace accord in Mozambique, where United Nations observers are monitoring an end to decades of fighting; and the election campaign in Nigeria, which is one of the largest suppliers of oil to the United States.

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