Gaza vs. Congo: A Tale of Media Double Standards

While the conflict between Israel and Hamas unfolded in Gaza over the past few weeks, many innocent Gazan civilians stuck in the middle have no doubt suffered much. Meanwhile, another group of civilians further south has been going through a nightmare of no lesser proportion. You may be forgiven if you haven't heard about the dire situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where over 1,000 civilians have been killed by a Ugandan rebel group since Christmas (Source: ResolveUganda). After all, the papers were so filled with coverage of the situation in Gaza, they had left little space to report this story; the late-night news devoted half its time to scenes of death and destruction in Gaza, running out of time before they had the chance to update you on the massacres in the DRC.

There are longstanding complaints about mainstream media bias in its reporting on Israel and websites such as honestreporting.com and bbcwatch.com seek to highlight this ongoing phenomenon. The contrast in reporting between the coverage of Israel's war on Hamas and the massacres of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) presents an interesting case study in media bias, and a disturbing one at that.

There are a remarkable number of similarities between the two conflicts:

  • Hamas is a radical Islamic militia headed by an imam with the aim of creating a state under Sharia law. The LRA is a Christian militia headed by a "spokesman of God" with the aim of establishing a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments (Source: GlobalSecurity).

  • Hamas and the LRA have both refused to sign peace agreements with their enemy, a U.S. ally. Both are designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. Department of State.

  • Following the end of a negotiated truce period and responding to ongoing Hamas rockets, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27, 2008. The ongoing conflict has lead to the deaths of 1,000 people to date, a third of whom are civilians. Meanwhile, two days earlier on Christmas Day, following the end of a UN peacekeeping mandate, the LRA attacked civilians with machetes, sparking the current conflict. To date, there are reports of 1,000 dead, all of whom are civilian.

  • The most newsworthy anecdote of the Gaza conflict has been the reported deaths of 40 civilians, including women and children, by an errant Israeli shell as they gathered to seek shelter at a safe haven, a UN school. Meanwhile, in the village of Doruma, more than 100 people, including women and children, were hacked to death by the LRA as they sought refuge in a safe haven, a Catholic church. Body parts were scattered all around the church and village (Source: The Monitor; ABC News).