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media misrepresents Iraq
For more than a decade, Iraq has generated a lot of coverage across international news outlets. A large portion of this coverage continues to focus on the perilous security situation which continues to plague the country. Furthermore, extremist activities such as suicide bombings and other forms of armed conflict remain in the spotlight. Although these issues do exist, the media misrepresents Iraq by omitting its positive progress.

Media’s Focus on Iraq’s History of Conflict

In general, Iraq is viewed as a massive military blunder on the part of the United States and coalition forces. It is argued that after the removal of the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the country further devolved into armed conflict among different factions, particularly ISIS and al-Qaida, who have continued to perpetuate violent activities in the region. In addition, increasing tensions between Kurdish forces and the Iraqi government are also highlighted. 

While it is true that Iraq’s economy, infrastructure and civilian population has been devastated by violence, there is reason for hope. Following the removal of Saddam Hussein, Iraq created the Council of Representatives (COR), a newly elected 275-member parliament. For the first time in more than half a decade, Iraq would have a democratically elected body. In April 2014, Iraq further expanded the COR to 328 members through a national legislative election. Also, the Iraqi people witnessed a peaceful transition of power from former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to new Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi. 

On June 10, 2014, The Washington Post reported that ISIS insurgents seized the Iraqi city of Mosul, leading to a retreat of Iraq’s security forces. Much of the coverage afterward would continue to focus on the atrocities carried out by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In December 2017, the Iraqi government formally announced the defeat of ISIS in Mosul and other urban strongholds across the region. ISIS’ defeat is a major step in the stabilization of the current security situation in Iraq. 

Media Misrepresents Iraq with Inadequate Reporting on Economic Progress

The media’s continued coverage of major security issues is another way in which the media misrepresents Iraq. The current focus fails to recognize the positive changes Iraq has seen in multiple areas. For example, the mortality rate for children under five years of age has dropped by 23 percent since 2000.

Currently, oil refineries make up 90 percent of Iraq’s exports in the global economy. Recognizing this trend, the Iraqi government has signed major contracts with large companies in the petroleum industry. In an effort to seek foreign investment, Iraq has also begun to initiate sweeping institutional and economic reforms across the country. However, reporting on Iraq’s current economic status has been largely negative due to continued armed conflict. This is another way in which the media misrepresents Iraq. 

To aid in rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure and bolster economic growth, the U.S. and other countries have pledged a $30 billion line of credit for the country. In addition, Iraq is slated to receive roughly $199 million in foreign assistance from the U.S. for FY 2019. Continued foreign aid and an extended line of credit are essential for progress in the war-torn country. 

Iraq’s current status is often viewed negatively. Misrepresentation by the media overlooks many of the positive things Iraq has accomplished in recent years. These achievements provide a glance into a much brighter future for the country, one in which Iraqi citizens can experience a higher quality of life and greater economic opportunities. 

– Colby McCoy
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents KazakhstanKazakhstan, located in Central Asia, has long been viewed by the world as a post-communist, backward state — politically oppressive, economically regressive and socially intolerant. This image is an example of how the media misrepresents Kazakhstan, displaying it as a totally different world from that of developed Euro-American countries.

How the Media Misrepresents Kazakhstan

A close examination of the lives of people in Kazakhstan and of its actual political and economic situation, including the perspectives of diverse sources, reveals how the media misrepresents Kazakhstan, fueled by the after-effects of the Cold War. Many people, especially in the U.S., received misrepresentative information about Kazakhstan from the American comedy film “Borat,” a parody of Kazakhstan’s culture rather than an accurate portrayal.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s long-advocated approach of “economy first, political reforms later” is described by British human rights advocate Hugh Williamson as a visage of “economy first, political reforms never” instead. Williamson claims that Kazakhstan is moving politically backward with “no free elections, little permitted open speech and the government significantly represses human rights.”

Current Developments in Kazakhstan

However, slow but apparent democratic progress in Kazakhstan has been recorded. It has been previously hindered because of the state of total economic collapse after the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, however, its economy has flourished and Kazakhstan is now an upper-middle-income country, according to the World Bank.

Democratic development in Kazakhstan includes the Secular Constitution established in 1995, which outlines a separation of powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Elections were also delivered in a multiparty parliament in 2012.

Further Progress in the Nation

In early 2016, Kazakhstan launched the Fostering Productive Innovations Project in cooperation with the World Bank. This is where ongoing science commercialization projects based on international standards of scientific excellence and high commercialization potential were developed.

In addition, Kazakhstan launched its first ever five-year program for Digital Kazakhstan 2020 which aims at creating the “Digital Silk Road.” This will provide support for the development of digital infrastructure and invest in human capital.

How the media misrepresents Kazakhstan extends to the nation’s political, economic, social and technological development. It is easy to dispel these cultural myths about Kazakhstan after looking into this exotic land through the lens of objective historical and social analysis.

– Heulwen Leung
Photo: Google

How the Media Misrepresents Egypt
How the media misrepresents Egypt begins with the country’s own local and national media. All media in Egypt before the introduction of the Internet in 1993 was controlled by the Egyptian government through the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) and any broadcasters had to be a member of this union. The ERTU was completely funded by the regime and was responsible for approving any news that was broadcast.

After the Internet was introduced, the public began to understand the extent of the censorship they were being subjected to. The public protested for freedom of speech and the government made changes to allow more open broadcasting. In 1996, a media company by the name of Al Jazeera developed the first 24-hour news channel in Egypt and sought to change how and what news was reported in Egypt.

The Al Jazeera channel was launched by the emir of Qatar and funded by the Qatari royal family. The channel often spoke negatively of Egyptian and Arab officials. These actions initiated several arrests of broadcasters that were covering government issues. This caused the regime to once again censor the media by issuing a warning to all broadcasters to choose only pro-government and pro-military topics.

How the International Media Misrepresents Egypt

How the international media misrepresents Egypt is quite different than that of the local media. There are many Egyptians that are upset over how the international media reported on peaceful demonstrations against former president Hosni Mubarak. Meanwhile, the protests that have taken place in Tahrir Square have been portrayed in news reports as destabilizing the nation and focused on extreme violence. There are many Egyptian reporters that are livid over how the media misrepresents Egypt in this fashion.

Egypt’s own government has not allowed any media to cover the protests in Tahrir Square. This has resulted in the resignation of the head of the English-language station Nile TV, Shaheera Amin. Amin has stated that the only permitted reports are those that are pro-government. Some foreign journalists have been seized and brutally mistreated for trying to report on the rallies in Tahrir Square.

According to Stephenie Livingston of Gnovis, a Georgetown University journal, Egyptians feel that American media coverage creates stereotypes about their culture and religion. This portrayal of Egypt in the media creates incorrect perceptions and fosters negativity toward the Egyptian population. This is especially true for Egyptian women, who feel that the negative portrayal is inhibiting their battle for equal rights. Livingston also cites several studies that show that there are more negative media stories about Egyptian culture, women and political protests.

There are several solutions that can be implemented to change this negative portrayal of Egypt in the media. An important step is the broadcasting of positive media, such as balanced coverage of Egyptian culture and religion. Another is to encourage the universities of the world to perform more studies to help determine which factors the media are influencing. This can help determine which portrayals are effective in making positive changes.

How the media misrepresents Egypt begins with the local broadcasting that is so censored and governmentally managed that the portrayal of Egypt is pro-military. This has been causing a large conflict within Egypt’s own broadcasting systems and is so extreme that reporters are resigning. Foreign journalists are being seized for trying to cover political issues.

The biggest issue of how the media misrepresents Egypt is the numerous stereotypes against Egyptian women, culture and religion worldwide. These stereotypes are having a largely negative effect, especially on women’s rights. All Egyptians are fighting to have their voice heard to change how the media misrepresents Egypt.

– Kristen Hibbett

Photo: Flickr

 ColombiaEver since the rise of drug lord Pablo Escobar in the 1980s, Colombia has been an easy target for negative media portrayals and has been susceptible to misrepresentation. Movies and TV shows provide the best examples of how the media misrepresents Colombia, because they often show the country as a war zone filled with drugs.

Although this may have been true at one time, it is no longer the case, and the media’s depiction of the past should not be mistaken for the present state of the country.

How the Media Misrepresents Colombia: Drug Lords and Cocaine

Hollywood has portrayed the lavish life of Colombian cartel leaders and the danger of Colombian guerrilla groups for many years; however, the Netflix show Narcos, which is a great example of how the media misrepresents Colombia, has recently brought more attention to the country’s dark past and has sparked an interest in Pablo Escobar, along with the Cali and Medellin cartels. The show now attracts more than three million viewers.

Pablo Escobar’s son, Sebastian Marroquin, has spoken out against Narcos for glorying his father’s crimes. “Series about narcos have turned my father into a hero and given young people the idea that it is cool to be a drug trafficker. I am not against telling stories, but I am against glorifying criminals and showing trafficking as glamorous,” he told El Periodico.

When an advertisement for Narcos was displayed in Madrid’s central square, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke out against the show in a radio interview by saying, “we Colombians lived the drama of Pablo Escobar and that suffering still hurts. Escobar should not be held up as a hero and honoring [him] goes against everything that is right.”

In addition to shows about Pablo Escobar, the American media widely covers the activity in drug-producing countries like Colombia; however, the abundant supply of drugs only continues if it is met by a demand for drugs in first world countries. Many of the people producing coca leaves are farmers looking to put food on the table for their families.

It is true that Colombia produces the majority of the world’s cocaine, but if people around the world were not consuming it, the supply may not have continued for this long. For instance, in a Washington Post article that covers cocaine use in the United States, the author places blame on Colombia’s producers and smugglers, yet only speaks of the consumer briefly by stating the rise in consumption and wraps it up by saying, “This surge in consumption can be traced directly to Colombia’s bumper harvest,” instead of further analyzing other factors that could result in an increase in American drug consumption.

The Reality: Peace and Development

A lot of good things are happening in Colombia, but the media ignores these events because they are not as exciting or dramatic as the war on drugs. A new era is here for the Colombian people and it deserves as much coverage as the war.

In 2016, the famous Colombia Peace Treaty put an end to a 52-year war between Colombia’s Armed Revolutionary Forces and the government. Additionally, the government is also carrying out negotiations with ELN, another armed guerrilla group which has caused violence in the country for decades. This led to President Santos being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.

The newly gained political and economic stability has opened up the country for business. The poverty rate in the country has fallen from 20 percent in 2001 to 4.5 percent in 2016. According to the World Bank’s 2017 ease of doing business report, Colombia ranks 53rd out of 190 countries, ranking only below Mexico in Latin America. Additionally, the country seems to be moving forward with technological development. In 2012, Medellin was named the innovative city of the year.

Safety

This is one of the common themes in how the media misrepresents Colombia. While it would be incorrect to claim there are no drugs or conflicts in Colombia, it is also incorrect to claim that cartels are operating at the same scale as they were in the 1980s and 1990s. The Medellin and Cali cartels were dismantled when the Colombian government, along with the U.S. government and DEA, carried out the assassination or incarceration of their leaders.

Although drug production continues, a violent drug empire that attempts to control the government, such as Pablo Escobar’s, no longer exists. Even though Colombia was considered a fragile state for years after Escobar’s death, ranking 14th in the 2005 Fragile State Index, it has now fallen to 71st in 2018. Colombia’s safety has improved greatly in the past 20 years.

As of January 2018, the U.S. Department of State has upgraded Colombia to a Level 2 country for travel after being considered a Level 3 country for many years. This means that instead of being a country that Americans should reconsider traveling to, it is now considered a country that can be visited with reasonable caution. Additionally, the New York Times has named Colombia as one of the top places to visit in 2018.

The media represents Colombia as it was in the 1980s and fails to report on the many changes that the country has undergone since this tragic time. The Colombian people are ready for a new chapter in their nation’s history and the media should accurately represent their efforts to close the chapter on war and drug trafficking and beginning an era of peace and stability.

– Luz Solano-Flórez

Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents El SalvadorLatin American countries tend to be represented as third-world countries compared to more prosperous ones like the United States. El Salvador is not exempt from such narratives. One such way that the media misrepresents El Salvador is by only covering the negative aspects of the news and not the positive. Some of the negative portrayals include stories about drugs, murders and gang violence.

A Better Future for Salvadorans

While there is this negativity present, there is also a garment factory that is trying to help turn the life of its workers around. This garment factory hired people “who are normally left out of society, including ex-gang members,” according to PBS News Hour. The factory combines school and works to give El Salvador a brighter future.

The factory’s general manager, Rodrigo Bolanos, said, “I saw the American dream, where lower- and middle-class kids can work and study at night in community colleges. And for me, that is a good way to resolve and to give the American dream right here in El Salvador to all these poor people.”

Carlos Arguetta, a previous gang member, wore long sleeves to his interview to try to cover up his tattoos, as described in the report. Through an interpreter, Arguetta stated that if he “didn’t have a job like this one, [he] would probably still be part of the gang and be doing killings.”

Improving Living Conditions in Slums

Another way that the media misrepresents El Salvador is in the way that its citizens live. Descriptions of wooden shacks are abundant when describing living conditions. While that might be true, there are two companies that are trying to change the places that Salvadorans live in.

Recently, a Texas-based construction technology company by the name of ICON partnered with New Story, a company that builds homes in developing countries, in order to provide better living conditions for those stuck in the El Salvador slums. ICON and New Story plan to transport a 3D-printer in order to produce 3D-printed homes for people at a highly reduced building cost.

The companies hope to give people who live in the slums an opportunity to live in a safer housing environment. As reported by Arab News, the mixture that produces the homes contains “a mix of concrete, water and other materials [that] are pumped through the 3D-printer.” The mixture hardens as it is being printed. It only takes 48 hours for a house to be built from the ground up. This is a much better alternative to makeshift shacks that citizens currently live in.

Using Art to Combat Violence

The final persistent misrepresentation of El Salvador in the media is the violence, and while the violence does occur, the nation is often presented as inescapable. However, art is one way that Salvadorans are able to escape their realities.

Marco Paíz is an artist and organizer of a festival by the name of “Sombrilla Fest,” or umbrella fest. It is a festival that is part of a bigger celebration called the World Social Circus Day, which takes place annually on April 7. This day is organized to be an international day to spread joy and is celebrated by 20 nations worldwide.

The goal of the festival is to have people “take over these spaces and these activities so that they [can] come out of the darkness of the violence that surrounds the country,” said Marco Paíz to TeleSur. It can also be an opportunity to motivate Salvadorans to learn the artistic practices so that they are able to improve their own living situation.

Despite the ways in which the media misrepresents El Salvador, there are numerous positive developments happening across this Central American nation.

– Valeria Flores

Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Russia
The fourth estate continues to plays a very crucial role in representing Russia on the global stage, especially as it remains at the epicenter of international political discourse (and even propaganda) in recent years. Yet, at the same time, the media misrepresents Russia and and helps create a subject of polarization and contentious, worldwide debate.

Over the years, media portrayal of current affairs in the country — particularly its involvement in the Syrian Civil War and the Ukrainian crisis —  as alleged human rights violations and treatment of dissidents has sparked a great deal of controversy.

How Does the Media Misrepresent Russia?

Historically, the media misrepresents Russia largely in regard to the country’s fractious relationship with its western counterparts, divisions that date back to the Cold War era and the entrenched divisions between East and West. Consequently, many ordinary Russians strongly believe that the way the media misrepresents Russia has not altered much since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Given the ubiquitous influence of the mainstream media globally, there is a definite positive correlation between media and poverty reduction due to the medium’s power and impact on public opinion and global political agendas. At the same time, the mainstream media caters to a wide array of stakeholder groups and other parties within their target audiences.

Global Representations

As a result of the misleading representation, perceptions of poverty and other important social and economic issues in Russia can become distorted. For example, Russian poverty rates and economic growth and recovery figures tend to vary with different sources. These can grow to be major impediments to understanding long-run social progress and development in the country.

Moreover, the inordinate amount of coverage dedicated to geopolitical issues in Russia greatly debilitates the already preexisting lower levels of coverage for poverty-related issues. Additionally, Russian President Vladimir Putin is often branded a pariah in regard to the intense international media attention and scrutiny placed on his actions, decisions and Russia’s foreign policy goals.

The Ramifications of International Media Attention

There seems to be a near-constant deficiency in the presentation of domestic social issues in the country, particularly President Putin’s promised six-year poverty reduction plan and the country’s economic recovery after the fall in global oil prices.

There could be a significant number of effects on the perspective and reputation of the country due to the media misrepresenting Russia. Media coverage can also become an important precursor for international credit ratings and global economic and financial rankings. These scores may have unforeseen impacts on important trade relationships, diplomatic relations and future investments to the country.

Overall, eradicating inconsistencies in media coverage can perhaps serve as a stepping stone to address social issues with more clarity and look past the lens of double standards that can often impact a nation’s representation. Hopefully, the international community will be able to participate in this new news coverage, and take on a more effective role in aiding the world’s poor.

 – Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr