Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Media Failure - Somalia, Pirates and Nuclear Waste

I have read various articles about Somali pirates over the past couple years and not one has mentioned the issue of nuclear waste.

You say: What's this about nuclear waste?!

Well, it appears that various individuals or companies have been dumping waste off Somalia's coast for the past 15-20 years because the government is unstable and they have no one guarding their long coastline. Sure enough some of the pirates are doing very bad things, but the idea that they are also protecting their coast from illegal dumping and overfishing does not seem to be mentioned in the articles investigating hijacking ships and taking World Food Program goods.
To go even further, even IF there was not dumping (and it seems there was), it appears that many Somali people believe it, so that would offer a reason for some behaviours, which would also aid understanding. Once again it is demonstrated that the many news outlets see their purpose as to provide biased perspectives or entertainment, as opposed to increase the understanding an issue.

Feb, 2005 - A UNEP spokesperson states that the Asian tsunami has interacted with illegal dumping to create various health problems for Somali people.
Oct, 2008 - Al Jazeera at least brings up the possibility of toxic waste being a contributing factor to piracy (but writes in a balanced way despite it being a short-ish article)
April, 2009 - Matthew Good links to Jonathan Hari who indicates the 'Western' world is being lied to and the pirates are mainly just trying to protect their country from the dastardly practices of other countries.

So, what do I (re)learn here? One, rarely do articles, opinion or news oriented, provide enough detail and content to understand an issue. Two, once again Al Jazeera did a better reporting job than the typical media sources to which I'm exposed. Three, it is always useful to investigate an issue and look for other sources. Granted, having never heard of the nuclear waste issue, I wouldn't have even thought to put that into Google (and that is the problem). Four, it is interesting to see who cites what source and how Hari's piece is going around the blogosphere and lefty news organizations.
'Normal' media is unbalanced in one direction, Hari's is a bit unbalanced in the other.
So what you should do? At this moment, Al Jazeera is your best bet.

Some pirates are just jackels and others might be true guaders of their coast, but it would at least be nice to be aware of both sides of the situation.


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