How the media misrepresents Afghanistan
Thousands of peoples’ lives were forever changed after the disastrous events of the 9/11/2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. But for over a decade, the stigma of Islam and all Muslims has wrongfully grouped innocent people in with the terrorists that caused harm to the U.S. and other countries.

The Media’s Focus on Radicals

This negative perspective of Muslims’ character stems from tragic events like the Charlie Hebdo attack in France and the alarming beheading videos done by the Islamic State group (ISIS). However, Espiritu believes the media coverage of these events focuses on linking the terrorists to Afghanistan which places the country in a negative light.

How the media misrepresents Afghanistan is in drawing broad connections to particular events done by groups of people, organizations, and even a single individual i.e. Osama bin Laden. When these events occur, the stigma against the people of Afghanistan — who are primarily Islamic people — translates to their portrayal in the media as savages, extremists, bigots and/or radicals.

When you limit Afghanistan to just these reductive terms and connotations, it creates a constant theme within the news medium of categorizing Muslims as belligerently harmful people.

Truth vs. Stigma

Although there are good arguments and truth in fearing the Taliban in Afghanistan, how the media misrepresents Afghanistan places any progress against these threats as overlooked. For instance, Peter Bergen stated in the Foreign Policy news article, “the Taliban are removed from power,” while numerous other news sites would focus on the Taliban’s continued threat instead.

Another focus of the media is the “Muslim” restriction of women from having jobs and giving daughters an education; however, there are now more women from Afghanistan aiding in the Afghan parliament than in the U.S. Congress. Also, there’s been progress in child education —  there are now eight million students’ in school, and more than 33 percent are girls.

Afghanistan’s Efforts at Nationwide Improvement

Even though Afghanistan has had a history of human trafficking, the U.S. Department of State from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees addresses that the government of Afghanistan has made improvements to end this practice.

The efforts consist of passing a new law that prohibits any trafficking and smuggling in January 2017. Furthermore, the government has managed to indict and punish criminals of this injustice while also placing trafficking victims in temporary housing in Kabul.

Pushing the socioeconomic progress forward also led the government to establish 15 child protection units (CPUs), creations which stopped 315 boys and three girls from becoming victims of police recruitment. Unfortunately, the government did not meet the requirements, though, in several categories: collusion, victim protection and progression in strategic planning for services provided.

How the Media Misrepresents Afghanistan

The media is supposed to be a direct connection from the government to the general public and vice versa; however, Mirza Mesic, a professor of Islamic History at the Zagreb, states that this medium of communication uses alternatives to basic informative practices such as skewing and then defending such alternative information.

With all the attention and negative input the media has done about Afghanistan, it is easy to say that drama sells stories, but how often is that balanced with the progression the country is making?

– Christopher Shipman

Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Mexico
News often tends to focus on the bad rather than the good. In recent years, almost all of the news reported on Mexico, especially in the U.S., has related to the Mexican Drug War and desperate, impoverished people turning to crime to support themselves. Sadly, this is how the media misrepresents Mexico and has made many of us forget what a great country Mexico truly is along with the many great things it offers.

Travel Warnings

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State issued “do not travel” advisories for the Mexican states of Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Guerrero. The warning is comparable to travel advisories for Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. As of March, nearing spring break, a popular time for travel to Mexico, warnings have spread into locations that were once considered safe and popular resort areas. A security alert warned Americans not to travel to Playa del Carmen which is a popular destination in itself and surrounded by other resort locations such as Cancun and Tulum.

It is true that Mexico is currently struggling with many issues including a drug war, and that some locations in Mexico are dangerous, but the fixation on only these areas is exactly how the media misrepresents Mexico and this situation, the focus often portraying Mexico as much worse off than it is.

As a whole, the U.S. classifies travel to Mexico with the same rank of danger as travel to Germany. It is only specific locations, as mentioned above, that rank higher. That being said, the vast majority of Mexicans are not criminals or dangerous to tourists. They are actually very welcoming and inclusive of visitors. Mexicans honor friendships and family and strive to include those interested in their culture.

A Thriving Mexico

Speaking of culture, it is currently thriving in Mexico, especially at its heart, Mexico City. Although it was once more dangerous, Mexico City has become as safe as any other large urban area, and it’s working on being even safer, including the introduction of train cars specifically for women and children to better prevent sexual harassment.

Mexico City offers a wide variety of restaurants and street vendors serving everything from traditional Mexican cuisine to creative modern dishes, or a combination of the two, making it a foodie paradise.   Art is another growing scene in the city, with independent art galleries and shops showing up in droves. The reason for this cultural and creative boom can most likely be attributed to the steady growth of Mexico’s economy.

Beyond the bustle of city life, Mexicans also care dearly for their county’s beautiful landscapes and environment. Many government policies regarding the environment have been enacted in recent years, including the creation of conservation zones which protect against logging. These protected areas include the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve which consists of approximately 140 thousand acres of butterfly habitat. Thanks to Mexico’s protection, the once diminishing population of Monarchs is now flourishing.

Although Mexico faces many issues regarding crime and drugs, a fixation of reports and stories regarding it is often how the media misrepresents Mexico.  The news on Mexico does not represent its country and people. There are still many wonderful, safe locations in the country with welcoming locals eager to show the real Mexico to visitors. Even with the many struggles it faces, Mexico continues to grow and improve as a nation both economically and culturally. Its people, including the government, work hard to preserve as well as advance these successes.

– Keegan Struble
Photo: Flickr

Top Foreign Aid Blogs
Foreign aid is the giving of money, food and various supplies from one country to another, usually for the purpose of bettering a nation’s well being. Foreign aid is often provided by countries as a peace-seeking measure, and it can be enacted to promote order and security. For everyday citizens, it can be hard to stay up to date on all the foreign aid developments happening around the world. Below is a list of some of the top foreign aid blogs that can help you stay informed on who is helping who, and who might need help soon.

Center for Global Development

The Center for Global Development is a U.S. nonprofit that specializes in covering international development and foreign aid. Its website is home to a blog with nearly two dozen categories ranging from global finance and investment to aid effectiveness.

With its inception back in 2002, this blog is a great resource for gaining well-judged and well-researched analyses of various world affairs. The use of expert opinion and exceptional journalistic inquiry furthers the site’s credibility, and it does an exemplary job of focusing on the topic at hand and using resources to educate the public.

Gates Notes

Gates Notes, the blog of Bill Gates, is a great resource for staying up to date within the scope of global affairs. Gates Notes has articles on nearly every world topic – from travel to foreign aid to success stories of international development.

This blog is also resourceful if you are looking for subcategories of foreign aid news. For example, the Saving Lives section of the blog looks into specific global issues. In the section, Gates recently wrote an article on five international and domestic heroes who are doing exemplary humanitarian work regarding poverty, hunger and disease.

If you are looking for a place to absorb the good and uplifting news of the world, Gates Notes is a great resource for doing so – it’s certainly one of the top foreign aid blogs out there.

Global Voices

Global Voices is an international community of writers and activists. They work to verify and translate various media stories in circulation and provide readers with an unadulterated version of what’s really happening in the world.

This nonprofit is primarily volunteer-based. One of its main goals in reporting is to rise above the censorship that often conceals the truth behind news stories about marginalized communities. Instead, its goal is simply to educate. Global Voices is one of the top foreign aid blogs for those wanting the truth about the variety of injustices that never reach the main western media outlets.

ForeignAssistance.gov

While ForeignAssistance.gov may not follow the typical blog format, it is still an essential resource for staying tuned in to U.S. foreign assistance spendingForeignAssistance.gov is great for receiving just the logistics as its website is mostly data-based rather than analysis-based. 

However, ForeignAssistance.gov is essential when you want to know what the U.S. government is up to internationally, as these interactions are often not covered in the media given the plethora of other domestic topics needing covering.  

The four resources listed above are some of the most reliable information centers for staying up to date on what goes on inside the world of foreign aid. The concept of intercontinental help and support can be hard to follow when you’re not on the inside, so be sure to check up on these top foreign aid blogs regularly so you can stay current on who is getting help, and more importantly, who is still in need of assistance.  

– Alexandra Dennis

Photo: Flickr

Global Issues Blogs

Many blogs focus on global issues that major news outlets do not cover. Such blogs are run by organizations, professionals and groups of people who care about informing the public about global poverty, climate change and more. Below are the top five global issues blogs:

Global Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All

This blog is focused on a variety of global topics. The aim of the site is to cover and discuss issues of climate change, poverty, foreign aid, racism and more while also showing how they are all interconnected. Additionally, it strives to give visibility to issues of poverty and hunger that rarely make the headlines of major news outlets.

The Borgen Project

The Borgen Project ranks in the top global issues blogs because it works with members of Congress to further legislation regarding issues of extreme poverty abroad. The blog covers various topics, including developments in technology, natural disasters and U.S. foreign policy to build awareness about global issues.

Business Fights Poverty

Business Fights Poverty is a community of professionals who are committed to fighting poverty through their business practices and reaching sustainable development goals. The blog focuses on issues of economic development as well as on collaboration to make a social impact. Business Fights Poverty also brings visibility to entrepreneurs in global communities of poverty and to potential ways for improving these economies through business.

TheDATABlog

The World Bank runs a blog called TheDATABlog that covers the activity of the World Bank as well as other news regarding global issues. Coverage focuses on development data issues and making that information more accessible to the public in an effort to improve people’s lives. The blog is updated fairly regularly, with posts at least once a week about recent news regarding development data and statistics.

DipNote

The U.S. Department of State has an official blog called DipNote. This blog covers a plethora of international issues such as global health care, gender equality and disease. Additionally, it has “This Week at State” posts that update readers about the week’s highlights regarding global issues, initiatives and events.

Reading any of these top global issues blogs is a great way to get information about news and events related to global issues. They provide regular and wide coverage on global poverty, the environment, the economy and other problems facing our world today.

– Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr

Top Political Blogs

The innovation of blogs has had a major role in the modern political and media climate. With greater ability to voice one’s opinions comes the possibility of becoming inundated with sensationalist and unreliable news. Still, there are many thought-provoking and well-informed blogs available. To make the search easier, below you will find the five top political blogs. 

FiveThirtyEight

What started as a passion project for creator Nate Silver, then mostly known as a baseball analyst, has morphed into a statistical analysis behemoth. FiveThirtyEight gained widespread attention in 2008 when it turned away from traditional polls in favor of a statistical model that favored demographics and past voting data – an idea that most experts rejected. However, people began to believe in Silver after he accurately predicted every Senate race in that year’s general election. ESPN bought the blog in 2014, so now FiveThirtyEight covers more than just politics and has grown into the territory of general data journalism. Still, the blog’s in-depth statistical analysis is what makes it one of the top political blogs in the world.

ThinkProgress

ThinkProgress began as a news recap and analysis blog in 2005. It is now a fully funded and staffed newsroom with the resources to be one of the top political blogs. A self-professed progressive blog, it is supported by the Center for American Progress Action Fund but maintains editorial independence. The blog is best known for its Climate Progress section, which focuses on climate change and its impact. Reporting from this section can be found in peer-reviewed journals such as The American Economic Review.  

Daily Kos

Another blog that isn’t shy about its political leanings is Daily Kos. It’s listed among the top political blogs because it is the 865th most visited site in the U.S. Markos Moulitsas, a veteran, started the blog as an outlet to express his opinion. He thinks of Daily Kos as more than just a news site. It’s also a hub for activists and its own unique community with more than 3 million people signed up for the Daily Kos newsletter.

Politico Europe Press Review

When following politics, it’s important to get out of the comfort zone and follow what’s going on around the world. While Politico Europe may feel like cheating because it is funded by Politico magazine, it is difficult to find a site that covers international politics and current events more closely than Politico Europe. Curious about what is going on in Slovakia? Politico Europe Press Review is up to date and also providing analysis about what other news sites are saying.

Foreign Policy Blogs

Foreign Policy Blogs is the top political blog for foreign policy and is more of a network of blogs than an individual one. The blog receives it funding from the Foreign Policy Association (FPA), a non-profit started in 1918 with the sole purpose of teaching Americans about the importance and substance of foreign policy issues. The blog’s staff doesn’t work directly for the FPA but instead hail from the fields of journalism, academia, non-profits, NGOs and business. The variety of backgrounds assures the opinions and analysis have a varied perspective.

Other Top Political Blogs

There are countless sites that all assert themselves as the top political blog available and discredit their competitors. While five is nowhere close to the total number of reputable political blogs, the sites mentioned above are great jumping off points for those looking for quality analysis and varied topics.

– David Jaques

Photo: Google


The stories of female Afghan writers and reporters are critical to the journalistic landscape of a country that sharply discriminates against women. Founded in 2015, Sahar Speaks brings these unique voices to light, providing mentoring, training and publishing opportunities for Afghan female journalists.

According to the organization, the name “Sahar” translated into English means “dawn,” meant to imply that a new period in time is commencing in which women can share their narratives and bring them to light. The program is transforming the journalism career path, allowing female correspondents to participate in international media and fostering their representation in the global field.

Women represent a marginalized group in Afghanistan and many cannot even openly speak with men. While the press corps is comprised of 9,000 journalists, only about 1,000 are female. After the 2001 expulsion of the Taliban, many news offices were established in Afghanistan by foreigners who primarily hired men and their close relatives. Until the origination of Sahar Speaks, no female reporters worked at foreign news outlets in Kabul.

British-American journalist Amie Ferris-Rotman founded the program to address this issue of gender inequity, giving women a platform through which they can freely communicate their perspectives. The project has helped to support insight into the lives of Afghan women whose experiences and accounts have been absent from the public eye.

While Afghan men or people from different countries are usually the ones telling the stories of Afghan women, the organization aims to return agency to Afghan female correspondents. Sahar Speaks has trained 22 Afghan female journalists and has prepared them for work on an international level. Through the program, budding reporters are paired with mentors and learn foundational journalism skills while addressing the challenges that they may face in the workplace.

Women face obstacles such as security threats and social barriers, including disapproval from family, yet Sahar Speaks aims to equip these women with the confidence to tell accurate stories. In 2016, 12 members of Sahar Speaks were selected to have their work published in The Huffington Post. Subjects ranged from the experience of having to dress like a boy in order to attend school to the practice of being married as a child. In 2017, journalists worked with The Huffington Post again to tell visual stories.

Alumnae of Sahar Speaks have gone on to pursue careers at the BBC, al Jazeera and The New York Times. In the fall of 2017, Ferris-Rotman collaborated with her mother, Lesley Ferris, to stage the stories that journalists had developed for The Huffington Post into a theatrical production.

Working with Ferris’ London-based drama company, Palindrome Productions, the performance debuted at Theatre 503 and brought to life three half-hour plays based on the experiences of the Afghan reporters. By presenting issues of gender and cultural restrictions through this medium, the production brought new attention to commonly overlooked conditions and sources of conflict, raising awareness on an international level.

Sahar Speaks is doing the essential job of giving Afghan women a voice in international media that has been absent for too long a time. By training reporters and equipping them with the skills they need to pursue a career in journalism, the organization is creating a changing culture where women can share accounts and seek out equity in society. While the perspectives of Afghan women have been obscured until recently, Sahar Speaks is shining a light on a new era where women will be empowered to express their stories and join a global discussion.

– Shira Laucharoen

Photo: Flickr

poverty in Africa
From U.S. leaders speaking about African countries that do not exist, to people thinking Africa is a single country, misconceptions about the continent and its circumstances are far too common and dangerous to people in need. This past year illustrated this point clearly: most in the public eye do not know what is actually going on there, and when they do, they fail to describe it correctly.

But as the financial conditions in Africa change, so should the concepts and terms used to describe it. Clearing this air is fundamental for the comprehension and, possibly, alleviation of poverty in Africa.

There is no single story, country, color or solution to poverty in Africa.

Africa is not homogeneous; this misconception largely comes from gross oversimplifications by colonists or other invaders (past and present). The inability to accurately describe the large region’s complexities coupled with a historic, persistent desire to control the various narratives there is where wrongful assumptions are made. Thinking it is one country inhabited by people who all look the same or that all African populations are the descendants of slaves is extremely problematic when it comes to helping those in need.

The Sahara Desert makes up a third of the continent, but its exotic wildlife and rare tribes have become more of an icon for the entire landmass’s culture than the other 66 percent of the actual continent. The same can be said of Africa’s immense rainforest, which covers even less of the continent.

The islands on the coast vary by the hundreds: Comoros and Réunion in the east, Ascension and St. Helena south of those, Cape Verde in the southwest and the Canary Islands in the northwest, to name a few. All of these are domains of Africa and their economic diversity goes unrecognized in relation to the continent’s popularized image.

Each country faces different problems brought on by varying systemic, societal and historical issues. Assuming there is a single plan that can “fix” all of Africa is not just naive but severely condescending.

Africa is not poor, just severely exploited (still).

Seychelles, an African archipelago of 115 islands that boasts only 1 percent unemployment, was ranked as the richest nation in Africa last year. A growing population of wealthy people are living and moving to places like Mauritius, an island just east of Madagascar. Africa’s islands are home to many of the world’s wealthiest people, not just Africa’s. On the mainland, South Africa, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Egypt are among the richest countries on the continent.

Some of the poverty in Africa is not by accident, but by design. An estimated $203 billion leaves the continent each year and around $41 billion was made off of sub-Saharan Africa alone last year. The sheer inequality is startling because the amount loaned to African countries ($162 billion) is less than the amount leaving, but nothing is being repaid.

According to a recent report, some of it is attributed to “trade misinvoicing”, where African nations receive an influx of foreign aid but subsequently lose three times that amount from “multinational companies deliberately misreporting the value of their imports or exports to reduce tax.” This means that many resource-rich African countries receiving aid are being manipulated by corporations, disenfranchising populations for denationalized profits.

This continues a history of economic exploitation that African countries have endured for centuries.

Not all tribes in Africa are poor. Or small. Or even “tribes”.

The common conception of African tribes is of black and brown people living in straw huts, hunting for food and thriving off the land. Even though Africa is home to around 3,000 tribes, many encompass populations of countries by the millions and do not live like that at all.

In Nigeria, 20 to 35 percent (approximately 45 million people) of the population identifies with the Yoruba tribe; many have white-collar jobs and live in a city. Many other tribes such as the Pedi, Igbo, Suri, Fulani and especially the Zulu, have become prominent in both size and wealth too, living in cities as taxpaying, working citizens. This raises the question: what is a tribe?

This notable misconception concerns the terminology itself. The term “tribe” insinuates a community of indigenous people, which they are, but it also comes with more negative connotations than the term “ethnic group” which, by definition, is what such populations can also be called. The name “language groups” applies even more because many speakers of various “tribal” languages are only that, speakers of a language, not “members” of a “tribe”.

For example, while it is common to speak about the displacement of various ethnic groups, the displacement of tribes in Africa is lesser known or communicated internationally. The term “ethnic group” tends to conjure empathy, while “tribe” tends to establish a sense of otherness. The ethnic diversity of such a well-populated continent needs a strikingly more complex lexicon to even begin to accurately depict populations that are far from the definition of “tribes”.

Breaking down such misconceptions helps diversify aid by simply being more culturally sensitive and aware. Addressing ineffective communication about poverty in Africa starts with using more accurate and inclusive language. Using precise vocabulary to paint a clear, distinct picture of the complex problems is how more successful solutions are established.

– Toni Paz

Photo: Flickr

Article 19The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in article 19 that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Named after this assertion, Article 19 is a human rights organization whose mission is to protect the freedom to speak globally. The group has worked in many different nations to address censorship, access to information and equality and hate speech, among other subjects.

Founded in 1987, Article 19 is based in London but has regional offices throughout the world, working with 100 organizations in more than 60 countries. The organization protects free speech on a global level by lobbying governments, intervening in individual incidents of rights violations and shaping legal standards relating to media and access to information.

With a commitment to combatting censorship, Article 19 has advocated on behalf of journalists arrested in Gambial, as well as Tanzanian politicians imprisoned for insulting the president. It has launched a petition that calls for a binding agreement for Latin American and Caribbean governments to guarantee access to information and justice in environmental matters, asserting that openness and transparency can help to monitor political corruption.

The organization has also written on the need for hate speech to be addressed in Myanmar and has taken a stance on racial discrimination in Tunisia, stating that racism inhibits pluralism of voices. Article 19 is a founding member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of 119 organizations committed to defending the basic liberty of freedom of expression. The nongovernmental organization raises awareness, acts through advocacy coalitions, forms petitions and conducts conferences and workshops.

Article 19 is also a founding member of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network, a group connecting organizations and individuals promoting access to information. The coalition runs projects such as a discussion list of lawyers, academics and civil society representatives concerned with the right of access.

In March 2017, Article 19 participated in a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council to draft The Global Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy, a document that will protect the openness of the media and safeguard the liberties of individuals and organizations internationally. The document is intended to inform policy makers and legislators in navigating liberties online and offline.

The Global Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy affirms the right of individuals to exercise freedom of expression anonymously and to use secure communication tools, while calling for the regulation of mass surveillance, describing this practice as interfering with privacy and freedom of expression. Additionally, the plan calls for the protection of confidential information given to companies online, as well as the right for confidential journalistic sources to not be disclosed. Through these measures, The Global Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy safeguard fundamental liberties in light of the digital age.

Article 19 is taking a stand against political censorship, the spreading of misinformation and the challenges that journalists face across multiple countries, calling for greater transparency and accountability. The organization operates on an international level, envisioning a world where freedom of expression and information are held in value. Navigating the digital era and the dangers of an oppressed media presence, Article 19 continues to fight for a diverse global community of voices, intervening in cases across the world and engaging in policy work to advance human rights.

– Shira Laucharoen

Photo: Google

media misrepresents North KoreaUnder the solitary darkness of closed curtains, two North Korean students prepare to watch a movie smuggled into the country from the Chinese black market. Before watching, the two must ensure that no one can see them from the street. If spotted, it will mean certain punishment for them and their families. The two watch in complete solitude as the truth about the outside world unveils itself.

The media misrepresents North Korea by portraying its citizens as unaware of the truth about the world. A 2017 article titled “A Journey into the Heart of North Korea” by Will Ripley and Marc Lourdes of CNN described North Koreans thusly: “The truth is, all these children know is government propaganda teaching fierce hatred of the U.S., and loyalty to the Kim family. Statues and photos of the Kims are everywhere. They’re under constant state media”.

While this statement is correct, the media often ignores the other side of the story. Illegal media is being smuggled into North Korea every day via the Chinese black market, and it is changing the thoughts, hearts and lives of North Koreans.

Kim Jong Un keeps a tight control on the truth, and North Koreans take dangerous steps to learn it every day. From illegal media to growing cell phone use, the North Korean people’s search for truth grows stronger every day, but so do the consequences. This is how the media misrepresents North Korea.

Smuggled Media

Contraband movies, TV shows and music are smuggled through the Chinese-North Korean border on USB drives every day. These forms of media give North Koreans second thoughts about the lies they were told in school. Because of this, many North Koreans know the truth about the outside world, and because of this information, some brave souls choose to defect.

“What North Korea really fears is their people becoming aware of their oppression,” said Kang Cho-hwan, founder of the North Korean Strategy Center.

The threat illegal media poses to the government is one of supreme danger: awareness. One North Korean defector, Yeon-mi Park, described her thoughts when watching American films for the first time, “I never heard my father tell my mother, ‘I love you’. But in the movies, a man tells a woman, ‘I love you’. And those things were never allowed to be expressed to each other, other than to the dear leader. So of course, this information helped me understand the outside world. I realized there was some humanity out there.”

Smuggled Cell Phones

Chinese cell phones being brought into North Korea are connecting families that have been separated for almost 70 years.

North Koreans are using smuggled cellphones to reach family members in South Korea for the first time in decades, even if they can only talk for ten minutes. The risk is extreme; cell phone connections can be traced by the North Korean government, but some North Koreans are willing to take the risk if it means minutes of connections with loved ones.

Ms. Ju, a North Korean citizen, describes calling her father in South Korea. “We barely spoke for ten minutes before the connection was suddenly lost. My father lost sleep that night, fearing that I might have been caught by North Korean soldiers.”

Smuggled Books

Banned books have been playing a role in enlightening the North Korean people. Along with USB drives filled with outside media, one can also find books that have been translated into Korean on the black market.

Je Son Lee, another North Korean defector, describes reading a black market book. “Back in North Korea, I once read a fantasy novel called ‘Lucy’s Closet’ and it was a story about a girl named Lucy entering a whole new different world through her closet. Before ‘Lucy’s Closet,’ I had never read anything about an imaginary world. Once I began reading it, I couldn’t stop reading until the very end of the story. I kept turning pages under a lit candle and I pulled an all-nighter just so I could finish reading Lucy’s Closet.”

Je Son Lee guessed that the book was actually “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis.

These black-market books, like the smuggled Hollywood movies, provide a different view of the outside world, contrary to what the North Korean government tells its citizens.

These cases are just a few examples of how the media misrepresents North Korea. With outside information continuing to pour into North Korea, one cannot help but think the future of the “hermit kingdom” might be bright. Perhaps instead of a war or nuclear disaster, North Korea will free itself with the truth.

– Tristan Gaebler

Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Kenya
It is not difficult to see how the media misrepresents Kenya: inescapable disease and poverty, political unrest and a desert as barren as the hopes of a nation. Stereotypes about Kenya run as rampant as the conjured images of one of its zebras fleeing from a predator. Yet, Kenya, like the zebra, is not as monochrome as at first glance. Beneath its markings, lies a living, breathing soul, capable of outrunning these dangerous expectations.

Perpetuation of the Media

For years, the media has helped to perpetuate an outside world’s ignorance, not only through its portrayal of life in Kenya, but also through its failure to fully recognize the progress made there.

Kenya has several reasons to be optimistic, including:

  • promising governmental policies and programs
  • a growing economy
  • a growing technology sector, and
  • reliability on renewable resources

From a financial standpoint, it’s easy to see how the media misrepresents Kenya. Kenya looks like a country in debt, but it’s a debt akin to calorie intake while working out. Enough calories need to be consumed, in order to be burned.

As Karen Kandie puts it in her article “Kenya’s Debt Sustainability, Positive Outlook” — “rather than focus on the total value of Kenya’s public debt, focus is best placed on what and how the debt has been utilized. Debt to fund infrastructure is a good debt.”

Citizen Well-Being

With that in mind, and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s second term underway, plans for the country’s future sustainability start with funding the well-being of its citizens. Kenyatta’s aggressive optimism about the prospect of universal health care highlights an ambitious timetable for the nation’s leader.

In an article entitled “President Kenyatta, governors lay ground for universal healthcare,” the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) delineates the rest of Kenyatta’s plan: “building 500,000 new homes, providing food security and nutrition, and significantly increasing the contribution of manufacturing.”

Couple these points of emphasis with long-term plans of water and forest conservation, and Kenya sets the pace for many African countries.

Optimism Abounds

Not all of Kenya’s success, however, lies in its future. In a nation with a growing tourism industry and trending technology ventures in Nairobi, optimism abounds even now. In fact, various financial experts foresee Kenya tallying a nearly six percent economic rise in 2018. That number doesn’t just exceed growth for most African countries, but for that of Western societies as well.

Kenya, though, doesn’t need to compare itself to Western society. The nation has its own identity, with a people as unique and resourceful as the landscape. In fact, according to Zoe Kendell, in an article focused on how the media misrepresents Kenya and much of Africa, the reality is much different than what people think.

While some Western societies use as little as ten percent of available renewable resources, Kenya continues to set itself up for future success, relying on hydroelectric power for more than half of its energy.

A Nation with Independent Spirit

With this kind of independent spirit, Kenya strives to become more than the expectations set for it. Sure, there are needs, but Kenyans are a proud people, working toward unity amid tribalism. With a president now in his second term, it looks as if that unity has formed a common goal.

The distendedbellies and pleading eyes of the television screen only tell the beginning of the story; what happens in this nation’s next chapter might be the plot twist that nobody expected.

– Daniel Staesser

Photo: Flickr