Media Coverage of CAR’s capital, Bangui

Posted on May 28, 2014 by

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In January of this year, the Central African Republic’s installed president, Michel Djotodia, stepped down due to pressure for the violence in the country. Djotodia led a mostly Muslim rebel group known as the Seleka alliance. In response to the Seleka alliance, a mainly Christian group, known as the anti-Balaka, started attacking and targeting the Seleka alliance members, but then generalized to all Muslims. Foreign troops, both African, Congolese, and French, known as peacekeepers have escorted nearly all the Muslims from the CAR and into relative safety of neighboring countries.

I examined 13 different media sources with articles pertaining to the story of the CAR. I learned that some stories are unique, some repeat certain phrases, and some are just duplicates and identical to other articles. Some of the duplicated articles, with the first article being thought as the “original”: The Guardian and US News, Reuters and AlJazeera, and The Japan Times and France 24. Each article seemed to repeat certain details, but change the wording of them. The way an writer chooses certain words together shows how they want to paint the picture of what happened.

In a majority of the articles, 8 of the 13, the writer clarified that the Seleka alliance was a mostly Muslim rebel group, with one article, the INSERT JOURNAL HERE, clarifying further with saying that the group was not overtly religious. However, a majority of 8 out of the 13, but not the same articles, describes the anti-Balaka as a Christian militia, without using the word “mainly” or “mostly.” This small detail begins to paint to picture of a scene where the Seleka is just an extremist rebel group who should not be associated with the Islamic religion. While on the other hand, it is the Christian’s fault for retaliating and targeting Muslim civilians. Another interesting observation is that each article that was in the minority for one group, whether is was saying “Muslim rebel group” or “mostly Christian militia” used the same terminology when describing the other side, meaning that they then used either “Christian militia” or “mostly Muslim rebel group.” Whereas the rest of the articles, which is about half, used the terminology “mostly Muslim” and “Christian militia” together.

When talking about the amount of Muslims escorted from the CAR, a vast majority, 11 of the 13, used the number 1,300, but with varying descriptors such as “more than,” “about,” or “around.” However, two articles, BBC News and Time Magazine, used the number 1,200 and each used the descriptor “more than.” This distinction of the numbers seems to make it less drastic of a loss, as to not over dramatize the incident going on. This could potentially indicate a bias leaning towards defending the Christian militias too.

Another interesting observation is how each article describes who the Seleka are, what they have done, and also who the anti-Balaka are and why they formed. Five of the articles state that the anti-Balaka was the result of the Seleka alliance, or the alliance led to the creation of the anti-Balaka. A few of the articles use the words “self-defense” when describing the anti-Balaka, indicating the want for some sort of understanding as to why they retaliated. In regards to the Seleka, a few of the articles mention the group decided to over throw the government because they felt they were being marginalized by the President. Others indicate that the Seleka were only a few “rogue elements” that decided to overthrow the government. The clarification as to why the rebel group decided to act makes it apparent that the writer wants the reader to know that the Muslim rebel group had a reason to start the war, and that it was not because Islam is inherently violent. They also used the terms “rogue elements” to make a boundary between ordinary Muslim people and the extremist rebel group.

The articles used many different ways to describe the Seleka leader, Michel Djotodia. Articles such as Reuters, The New York Times, and AlJazeera, all used the phrase “Seleka/rebel leader stepped down under intenational pressure,” indicating that even though they took power, they were losing, and somewhat lost, control over the country.

While describing the escort of the Muslims from the CAR, many articles, 8 of the 13, described the peacekeepers as “heavily armed” and the Muslims as either “some of the last remaining” or “the last pockets.” This small statement signifies the impact that the anti-Balaka have had on the CAR, and the phrasing the writers use either emphasizes it or downplays the fact.

Nearly all of the articles mention the looting that takes place after the convoys leave with the Muslims. Some articles use colorful and strong words to describe it, such as “Within minutes of the convoy’s departure, an angry swarm of neighbors descended upon the mosque. Tools in hand, they dismantled and stole the loudspeaker once used for the call to prayer and stripped the building even of its ceiling fan blades.” This is a direct quote, which appears in nearly half of the articles. Five articles specify the looters as being neighbors, while two articles clarify saying that they are Christian and that even the women and children participated in the looting of the neighborhood.

Four of the articles claim the departure of the Muslims as an exodus, which just means an emigration, and claims that this “exodus further partitions the country.” The use of the words like “exodus” and “partitions” seem to have much stronger meanings than what they actually mean. Partitions simply means separation, which seems less significant and dramatic that its synonym. The use of the word exodus has a stronger meaning for both the Jewish and the Christian faiths, which could be a factor as to why the articles chose that specific of a word. In my opinion, the writers used the word exodus so that the anti-Balaka would connect what they are doing to the Muslims of their country with a biblical story. Each article that used the term “exodus” also explained that the United Nations has been calling this incident of Muslims being forced to leave their country as an “ethnic cleansing.”

To conclude, each article provided either a unique perspective or simply duplicated another article, but with either option, each article provided valuable insight as to how this event is seen, perceived, and describes in various parts of the world. Some articles seemed to downplay the Seleka alliance quite majorly and focused more intensely on the anti-Balaka attacking the Muslim civilians, while other articles seemed more interested in describing all the events leading up to the eviction of the last remaining Muslims in the CAR.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“1,300 Muslims flee Bangui, deepening Central Africa’s religious divide.” The Japan Times 28 Apr. 2014: n. pag. JapanTimes.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

Brandt, Richard. “1,200 Muslims Leave Central African Republic Capital.” Time Magazine 27 Apr. 2014: n. pag. timeMagazine.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

Braun, Emmanuel. “Looting follows evacuation of Muslims from Central African capital.” Reuters 27 Apr. 2014: n. pag. Reuters.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

“CAR crisis: Peacekeepers escort Muslims out of Bangui.” BBC News 27 Apr. 2014: n. pag. BBCNews.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

“Central African Republic: Bangui mosque looted after Muslim exodus.” The Guardian 27 Apr. 2014: n. pag. theGuardian.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

France 24 with AFP. “Over a thousand Muslims leave Bangui amid sectarian violence.” France 24 28 Apr. 2014: n. pag. france24.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

Hinshaw, Drew. “Muslims Flee Central African Republic Capital.” The Wall Street Journal 27 Apr. 2014: n. pag. theWallStreetJournal.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

Larson, Krista. “1300 Muslims evacuated from C. African Republic capital under armed escort after 4 months.” US News 27 Apr. 2014: n. pag. USNews.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

“Looting Follows Evacuation of Muslims in CAR.” Voice of America 27 Apr. 2014: n. pag. VOA.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

“Muslims escorted out of CAR capital Bangui.” Al Jazeera English – Live US, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Sports, Weather & Business News. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2014. <http://www.aljazeera.com/&gt;.

Reuters. “Charity Workers Among 22 Slain in Central African Republic.” nbc news 27 Apr. 2014: n. pag. NBCNews.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

Reuters. “Muslims Leave Central African Republic Capital Under Escort.” The New York Times 27 Apr. 2014: n. pag. theNewYorkTimes.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

Stein, Chris. “For Bangui’s last Muslims, to stray outside the safe haven is to court death.” Global Post  26 Apr. 2014: n. pag. GlobalPost.com. Web. 12 May 2014.

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Posted in: Islam