Major media outlets are more likely to cover tragedies in first-world Western countries than in underdeveloped nations. This is no more evident in the coverage of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris as opposed to the coverage of terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria.
The attacks on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and another attack on a kosher grocery store in the French capital generated global outcry in the hours after they took place. The attacks left a total of 17 people dead.
World leaders joined 3.7 million people at a rally in Paris on Jan. 11, in a show of solidarity while the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) trended globally.
On the same day, an attack from the militant extremist group Boko Haram left as many as 2,000 dead when they razed the village of Baga.
There were no rallies in response to the Baga attack or a trendy hashtag. The media response was smaller even though the death toll was substantially higher.
Media Meter conducted a 2014 study showing that coverage in countries like Nigeria and other developing nations is substantially lower than their first-world counterparts.
Even Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan spoke out condemning the attacks in Paris without mentioning the horrific attacks in his own country. This is most likely due to Jonathan not wanting to remind people of how bloody the conflict has been in Nigeria ahead of the country’s presidential election next month.
Part of the reason for the disparity in coverage is due to the fact that in the Charlie Hebdo attack was a direct attack on a media outlet and the mainstream media seems more interested in covering an attack on itself, rather than an attack in a remote village.
Another factor is the difficulty in reporting in the region. Journalists in Nigeria have been targeted by Boko Haram, as detailed in a Huffington Post article from 2012.
Another reason is that Paris is a well-known capital and an urban center, which makes it easier for people in first-world countries to relate to.
Either way, the media needs to do a stronger job of covering major issues like these in order to shed light on some of the harsh tragedies in the world. Not paying attention to these issues only gives groups like Boko Haram a free pass to continue to harm innocent people.