Berlin attack and Media bias

Berlin attack and Media bias

  1 comments   |     by Majid Khan

Berlin attack and Media bias

 Majid Khan

In April 19, 1995, in bombing at Oklahoma City 169 people were killed. After few hours of this brutal act of terrorism, journalists, law enforcement and government officials, reported "Arabic-looking men in jogging suits [were] running from the scene." Without credible witnesses and proof, journalists accepted and reported that terrorist must be from Arab and even some reporters began questioning the loyalty and integrity of America's Arabs and Muslims. British newspaper Today published on its main page a scary picture of a fireman carrying the burnt remains of a dead child under the headline In the name of Islam’. As a result Muslims throughout the United States were targeted for physical abuse, rough treatment and social ostracism. Later it was proved that bomber was American soldier, a decorated Gulf War (1991) veteran. The religion of this terrorist was not Islam but Christianity. But no one in either American or British media labelled him a ‘Christian terrorist’ and it must be not. And even media didn’t apologise from Arabs and Muslims community for its labelling barbaric image to them.

In 19th of December 2016, Berlin was under attack by a terrorist, a man intentionally drove a semi-truck into a crowded Christmas market, 12 people died and 48 injured. In the aftermath of this brutal attack, police started investigation on multi grounds and also investigate a 23 year old, Pakistani asylum seeker but Western news started breaking the news with big headlines like:

Driver in Berlin attack Pakistani: sources,

Suspect Is 23-Year-Old Pakistani Man

Berlin attack: Who is Naved B? Terror suspect denies Christmas market attack involvement
German police raid asylum shelter in Berlin, arrest Pakistani man

After the extensive media coverage to an asylum seeker, Pakistani guy, in reaction and to ease the public, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “It would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that (the) person who committed this act was someone who sought protection and asylum,"

The Pakistani young man, Naseer was later released but the question is why they projected ‘Pakistani guy’ so extensively? Investigative authorities can call anyone for investigation or help but framing Pakistan and asylum seekers with terrorism is not a new story. Pakistan, Arabs and Muslim communities have always been the victims of bad construction of image by the Western media since long. Can this be called media biasness? And what is media biasness?

Robert Entman an American analyst of media framing, proposes concept of media biasness with integrating the visions generated by framing, agenda setting, and priming. Entman points out that with integration possible goal could be achieved:

Systematically employing agenda setting, framing, and priming under the conceptual umbrella of bias would advance understanding of the media’s role in distributing power, revealing new dimensions and processes of critically political communication.

Entman argues that ‘properly defined and measured, slant and bias provide insight into how the media influence the distribution of power: who gets what, when, and how’. Entman further argues that organizing concept is bias that curiously under theorized staple of public discourse about the media.

David Niven argues that it needs to define the word ‘bias’ clearly for better understanding of ordinary citizens and activists because it provokes and alone received much serious empirical attention (Niven 2002).  Entman categorizes and explains three major kind of media bias:

  1. Distortion Bias: It is applied to news that purportedly distorts or falsifies reality.
  2. Content Bias: The news that favours one side rather than providing equivalent treatment to both sides in a political conflict.
  3. Decision-Making Bias: The motivations and mind-sets of journalists who allegedly produce the biased content.

In the case of Berlin attack we can see the implementation of ‘Decision-making bias’ by the leading sections of Western news media and rest of news world follow the trend or frame. News channels did lengthy live coverage and repeated the name of Pakistan and asylum seekers extensively and framing it with terrorism in their reporting which depicts their motivations, desires and mind-sets.

Pakistan has been victimizing by the Western news media since 2005, after the shift of US policy in the region. We have seen in several research studies that after the few year of war on terror, international news media specifically US started to construct Pakistan as playing a double act; supporting the US strategy and at the same time providing covert support to the Taliban resistance. Many documentaries and news reports like The war in Pakistan, Taliban’s children, Pakistan double face, Pakistan secret war and in many Hollywood movies like London has fallen, Seal Team Six, Four lions, Zero dark thirty, and famous US TV series Homeland season 4, constructed the image of Pakistan- a dangerous country. In the other side of the picture, Pakistan has suffered huge lose in the so-called war on terror, both in men and material which was ignored or never put up in the mainstream. This country has suffered a loss of almost US $ 118 billion including loss of over 50,000 precious lives of civilians and law enforcement agencies during the war on terror.

In this age of information we think that we got the access of information but in reality all the information are coming to us are filtered and these filters construct images in our mind and one of the big filter is media biasness. Now it needs to educate the common people to understand the media biasness and help them to see the other part of the world with open eyes not from the media filtered eyes.  

(Majid Khan is a Journalist, Lecturer and PhD scholar of media in Australia)











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