Hodge Podge by Charlie Hodge – The silence of slaughter

Despite the fact I’ve spent the majority of my life working in media I admit to often being boggled by what is deemed ‘news worthy’. It’s truly mystifying what scribes and viewers often value as important.In a world where journalism is seemingly split between being either over-zealously irresponsible or apathetically lethargic, there is certainly a dearth of legitimate news feeds to count upon. That aside, some stories simply scream out for attention no matter the dunce factor.Having ‘been there – done that’ as a working journalist I fully recognise that not every news agency can have the ‘lead’ or ‘scoop’ on a breaking news story. No one can be everywhere at exactly the right time. Regardless, it is a competitive business the world of news, and any legitimate or semi-legitimate news outlets (be it radio, TV, online…) usually catches up rapidly to their competitors with their own updates, feeds, and coverage.So why is it that the horrendous massacre of women and children at town of Baga in the north-eastern state of Borno, Nigeria pretty much flew under the North American and European media radar late last week?Better yet, why is Baga STILL flying under the world media radar today?While much of the world’s attention understandably focused on the terrifying terrorist tragedy that left 17 dead in Paris, France a true Hell of a similar nature was pouring out on another stage thousands of miles away.Depending on whom you get your info from between 150 and 2,200 people (the majority women and children), were slaughtered late last week in Nigeria.First reports to filter through estimated more than 2,000 casualties following a brutal attack by Boko Haram militants on the town of Baga. Amnesty International initially referred to the attack as one of the most horrendous, “deadliest massacres to date”, and local defence groups said they had given up counting the bodies left lying on the streets.Wednesday afternoon other sources quoted Nigerian government officials (apparently now playing down the tragedy) as saying the number of victims was, “no more than 150.”Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan is accused of regularly underestimating casualty numbers in conflicts with the Boko Haram in order to diminish the public’s fear of the terrorist group. His government dismissed the earlier higher death estimates as, “speciation and exaggerated conjecture,” and assured the public the army was taking necessary actions to restore law and order.Media analysts suggest Jonathan refuses to discuss the attacks since it reminds voters the current conflict erupted under his management and his government has been unable to eliminate the rebels. Nigeria’s elections take place in mid-February.Despite the squelch and various corruptions in Nigeria, not all the world media was missing the horrible tale.While the majority of the world was paying attention to the terrorist display in France a few journalists were  coming to grips with the equally stunning disrespect for human life that was unfolding violently at the same time in Nigeria. Writer Simon Allison, a writer for the Daily Maverick (a partner of the Guardian Africa network) wrote, “I am Charlie, but I am Baga too.”“There are massacres and there are massacres. It may be the 21st century, but African lives are still deemed less newsworthy – and, by implication, less valuable – than western lives,” he charges.Allison fully recognises the challenges in reporting stories from such remote locations. “The nearest journalists are hundreds of kilometres away.”Indeed gathering news in northern Nigeria is notoriously difficult with many journalists targeted by Boko Haram and others. People are isolated and have little or no internet or other worldly communications. There is an absence of an online community able to share news, photos, and video reports of news as it occurs.And there is yet another and perhaps greater ramification to the sad slaughter scenario. Worthy of attention is the significance of the militants taking total control of Baga. With its successful attack the Boko Haram effectively control Borno state in its entirety. “These aren’t just terrorists: they are becoming a de facto state,” Allison warns.Even more reason for the world to take notice.Blame does not solely lie with western media; there was pathetically little African news coverage either, said Allison.“No leaders were condemning the attacks, nor did any talk of a solidarity movement,” he said, adding that, “our outrage and solidarity over the Paris massacre is also a symbol of how we as Africans neglect Africa’s own tragedies, and prioritise western lives over our own.”So indeed the question needs to continue being asked – why is the world ignoring this act of barbarism?  Why is the world ignoring Boko Haram’s Baga attacks?While global leaders joined an estimated 3.7 million people on its streets for a march to show unity, and the rest of the world mourned for those in France, (and rightfully so) few wept for Nigeria.Many critics point to the palpable silence of Nigeria’s politicians including President Jonathan who recently expressed his sorrow and condolences for the victims of France – but stayed silent on the Boko Haram attacks on Baga.His silence it seems is being heard around the world.

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Charlie Hodge is a best-selling author, writer, a current Kelowna City Councillor, and a Director on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Board. He spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist and has a diverse background in public relations, promotions, personal coaching, and strategic planning. A former managing editor, assistant editor, sports editor, entertainment editor, journalist, and photographer, Hodge also co-hosted a variety of radio talk shows and still writes a regular weekly newspaper column titled Hodge Podge, which he has crafted now for 41 years. His biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me is a Canadian bestseller and his second book, Stop It There, Back It Up – 50 Years of the NHL garnered lots of attention from media and hockey fans alike. Charlie is currently working on a third hockey book, as well as a contracted historical/fiction novel. His creative promotional skills and strategic planning have been utilized for many years in the Canadian music industry, provincial, national, and international environmental fields, and municipal, provincial, and federal politics. Charlie is a skilled facilitator, a dynamic motivational speaker, and effective personal coach. His hobbies include gardening, canoeing, playing pool, and writing music. Charlie shares his Okanagan home with wife Teresa and five spoiled cats.


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