July 10, 2012 · 0 Comments
Above: Thomas Lubanga, right, at The International Criminal Court in the Hague on Tuesday. Pool photo by Jerry Lampen
By Michael McGehee:
The New York Times published an article today by Marlise Simons under the headline “International Criminal Court Issues First Sentence.” As I have written before (see “NYT says Charles Taylor Conviction is ‘a watershed case for modern human rights law’” as one of many examples) the problem with the Times’ coverage of world affairs is how it consistently shapes its stories to emphasize certain things (e.g. laser-like focus on the crimes and misdeeds of “enemies”), while omitting others (e.g. silence on the crimes and misdeeds of the U.S. and its allies).
In Simons’ latest article this pattern is again on display when readers are told that Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese warlord, was sentenced “to prison for 14 years for using child soldiers in his rebel army in 2002 and 2003,” and that his sentence “reflected the need to protect children.” Simons goes on to write that the sentence also “drew renewed attention to another suspect wanted by the court, Joseph Kony, the leader of the dwindling Lord’s Resistance Army, which for years abducted children and turned them into soldiers as it rampaged through at least four Central African countries.”
But Simons does not mention a number of important factors.
For one, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, along with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (see my columns ”The NYT Makes Excuses for Rwanda’s Genocide in Congo” and “NYT Calls Rwanda’s Paul Kagame ‘Darling Dictator of the Day’ ” for more on Kagame), not only invaded and occupied Democratic Republic of Congo in the mid-1990s, and committed considerably more atrocities than warlords like Lubanga, but Museveni also used child soldiers. Neither Museveni nor Kagame are facing charges. Like former Rwandan Patriotic Army member Bosco Ntaganda, Lubanga and Kony was on the wrong side of the Central African conflicts. Their armies weren’t backed by the U.S—the main backer of Uganda and Rwanda.
When Simons talks about Lubanga’s sentence drawing “attention to another suspect by the court” there is no comment on how politicized it is (surely the remarkable continuity that the court only charges enemies of the West is worthy of attention and coverage). Though, as conflicts in Syria, Georgia and Sudan have shown, the NYT’s standard bias is to challenge and criticize Russia and China for their political interests in global affairs.
Another thing worth mentioning, since Simons failed to do so, is that Kony’s forces are largely defeated. In the scope of human rights abuses of Central Africa, and considering all the militant forces—not just those being singled out by the American Empire and their media—Kony’s LRA is barely visible. Compared with the ongoing issue of Rwanda’s involvement in DRC, which was recently highlighted by a UN report that The Guardian UK said “examines claims that Rwanda is fuelling a violent rebellion in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo,” the hypocrisy of Simons’ article becomes more apparent. The Guardian also went on to report that, “The Congolese government said the UN group of experts’ report is being stalled by Rwanda and its allies on the security council to protect [Rwanda's] President Paul Kagame.”
For Simons, this story, of one of the richest countries in minerals and natural resources (Democratic Republic of Congo) who has seen up to ten million of its people killed while Western companies and foreign governments help themselves to Congo’s treasures, is unworthy of even the faintest of mention. Coupled with a 2010 UN report that found Rwanda guilty of serious war crimes, resource exploitation, and even went so far as to suggest that what Rwanda did in Congo was genocide, Simons’ silence is even more troubling.
In Simons’ defense, she is not alone. The New York Times — as a whole — has provided very poor coverage of the recent UN report. They have only published one article—”Congo: Rwanda Tied to Rebels“—consisting of 90 words, where they describe rebels as being “aided by neighboring Rwanda.” There is no mention of the extent of the “aid,” or how the U.S. used its power in the Security Council to try and derail the release of the 2012 UN report.
How this squares with the Times’ slogan of “all the news fit to print” is a mystery. Elsewhere it can be noted that it is Rwanda who is fuelling the conflict in Congo, not Joseph Kony, or Thomas Lubanga, or Bosco Ntaganda, but the U.S-backed Rwanda. But the New York Times finds such an important story unworthy of attention, cropping it to less than one hundred words, and burying it in the back of its paper.
The New York Times pattern of focusing on real, imagined, or inflated crimes of “enemies” while ignoring the U.S. and its allies raises serious questions about the Times as a media institution. Is it an impartial news source informing the general public with journalistic integrity, or is it a public relations firm manipulating the opinions of the general public in service of the prevailing economic and political power systems?