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3M: Mass Media Misinformation

Once the vanguard of quality journalism it seems that the under-resourced staff at the leading news gathering organizations around the world are feeling the pinch. As a result we are seeing the effect on Eritrea, throughout history poorly treated, often sought, and in today’s world of sound bites nary listened to. Of course telegraphing that message is made all the more difficult by editorial decisions made elsewhere that can misinform the reader without the approval of the on-the-ground journalist.

This is the second meta article (the first) that I have felt I have had to write because of seemingly deliberate misrepresentations. Of course, I would not feel the need to do so if I felt that these were noted and discussed, by unfortunately they are not. I can see two reasons why a news organization would do this:

  1. carelessness
  2. sell their story more easily (make it more sexy)

The former implies a lack of capacity and professionalism while the latter informs entertainment value. Either conclusion however relegates news organizations, particularly the old line (floundering) print houses, to second tier quality. The most disturbing quality of this is the names involved, two of the most internationally respected (though the value of that metric is always questionable) engaged in this questionable practice: BBC and Thomson Reuters.

The first offense, that of the BBC took place on the 22nd of February (2010), the day tens of thousands of Eritrea demonstrated to the international community their disgust with the place of sanctions on Eritrea. Originally the BBC had reported1 that only hundreds were represented in the demonstration however numerous complaints and evidence proved contrary to their reporting and they relented. Their second offense was in the image placed in the article. Although the caption notes that those are Somali insurgents, the impression given is that they are from Eritrea and that the rallies around the world are in their support. Again, this is simply contrary to the principles of journalism. This latter offense by the BBC however, is trivial compared to that by Thomson Reuters.

In their most recent piece from Asmara, Jeremy Clarke discussing UNICEF and its call to action2. The associated image is frightening, and it brought a great deal of concern to me. The images lacks a caption and so one would immediately assume it was an Eritrean child. Clicking through the image however you are brought to a new page which is caption which notes the child is from a hospital in Somalia. One could argue this is but a technical fault, but the question that arises is why was the image selected anyway. This was clearly an editorial decision and so perhaps now we should view Thomson Reuters with more skepticism.

I have always regarded the news media with a bit of skepticism since learned of their influence in the Spanish-American war, however to see such blatant disregard of journalistic principles is frightening. This is a lesson to all readers that they ought to read all information much more critically!


  1. Eritreans rally against UN sanctions 

  2. UNICEF wants $24.8 million for Eritrean fund 

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