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International Conflicts

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  • Sunday shows spent plenty of time talking about Trump bombing Syria, but almost entirely ignored Syrian refugees

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On Friday, April 13, President Donald Trump announced joint cruise missile strikes with the U.K. and France against several Syrian chemical weapons facilities in retaliation for an apparent April 7 chlorine gas attack in Douma, Syria. Over the weekend, the Sunday morning political talk shows had plenty to discuss about the airstrikes, but not much to say about the ongoing plight of Syrian refugees.

    On Sunday, CNN’s State of the Union, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and ABC’s This Week all failed to mention Syrian refugees while discussing the airstrikes. The only mention of Syrian refugees on any of the Sunday morning political talk shows was on Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, when host Chris Wallace asked UN Ambassador Nikki Haley just one question about them. 

    A few other Sunday morning programs on cable news channels did better in discussing concerns about refugees: There were segments on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and New Day Sunday, which played (albeit briefly) a clip of earlier commentary from a Syrian chemical attack survivor. The Sunday edition of Fox & Friends Weekend also featured two passing mentions of the refugees across its four-hour broadcast; in both instances, the guests brought up the subject unprompted. 

    On MSNBC however, AM Joy did two segments concerning Syrian refugees, including this excellent example of how media should discuss the subject, particularly in light of American military action that is likely to displace more people:

    JOY REID (HOST): So, a truly humanitarian approach would be to welcome refugees to a democratic country that has the resources to protect and shelter them from the dangers they're trying to escape, yeah? Instead, the Trump administration says it initiated airstrikes as a symbol of support and solidarity for Syrians after the chemical attacks orchestrated by the Syrian president. But with only 11 Syrian refugees accepted into the United States this year -- not 1,100; 11 -- the Trump administration's concern for the Syrian people rings rather hollow.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of the word “refugee” on Sunday morning political talk and/or news shows on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Broadcasting Co., CBS, NBC, and ABC between 06:00 and 12:00. 

  • Who cares if Trump’s reckless, dangerous Syria announcement is hypocritical?

    Pundits zero in on the least important aspect of Trump’s pledge to bomb Assad

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    This morning, the president pecked out an especially unglued Twitter tirade in which he announced that the United States would be taking military action against the Syrian government. According to Donald Trump, who very likely made this announcement because the lackwit bobbleheads on his favorite morning cable TV show were talking about Syria, his plan is to fire “nice and new and ‘smart!’” missiles as punishment for “Gas Killing Animal” Bashar Assad’s recent alleged chemical attack on the town of Douma.

    To add still more unnecessary drama to the announcement, Trump packaged it as a taunt to Russia, which backs the Assad government in its brutal war against Syrian opposition forces and vowed to intercept any U.S. missiles fired at Syrian government targets.

    It would be dangerous for any president to unilaterally escalate U.S. military involvement in the Syrian civil war, but for an erratic and unthinkingly bellicose president like Donald Trump to go down this path is reckless beyond measure. Trump promised to attack the Syrian government with no hint of strategy, no attempt at legal justification, and not even a whisper about what such an attack is supposed to achieve (the last time Trump bombed Syria, it was meant to deter further chemical attacks, which apparently didn’t work). The only things we know for sure about this planned military action is that Trump plans to go ahead without Congress’ input, and that he intends it to be a deliberate provocation of the nuclear-armed regional power that is deeply immersed in the Syrian civil war.

    Trump’s dashed-off pledge to strike against Syria raises critically important questions about U.S. Middle East policy, the power of the president to make war, and the dangers of a manifestly incompetent commander-in-chief making war plans based on what Fox & Friends chooses to cover. Faced with these weighty issues, however, the immediate reaction from the press was to focus on the least important aspect of Trump’s planned military action: whether he is a hypocrite for announcing it ahead of time.

    Immediately following Trump’s tweet, Twitter was full of pundits and reporters whose first reaction to the president’s announcement was to wryly poke at his past criticisms of presidents who telegraphed their attacks.

    NPR’s early reaction to Trump’s tweet was to focus on the hypocrisy angle. “This is a president who has made a big deal of not showing his hand, especially when it comes to really important decisions as commander-in-chief,” NPR’s David Greene reported shortly after Trump made the announcement. “He’s doing exactly what he criticized Obama for doing,” NPR’s Mara Liasson agreed.

    The reason reporters and pundits defaulted to the hypocrisy angle is because it’s an easy criticism that is ultimately meaningless and thus safe for them to have an opinion on. And it indicates how alarmingly comfortable much of the mainstream press is with the idea that the president can just up and decide to initiate military hostilities whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason -- even when there is no actual reason at all. It’s just another political game.

    The Trump administration has not offered a compelling legal rationale for its attacks on the Syrian government. It hasn’t secured or even asked for authorization from Congress. The administration hasn’t garnered the support of the U.N. or the international community. Instead, the White House is just barreling forward with the longstanding executive-branch practice of initiating hostilities and then slapping together a retroactive pseudo-justification that it confidently assumes won’t be seriously challenged.

    Few people seem especially bothered by this, and just about everyone is ready to accept that oafish hothead Donald Trump can bumble ass-first into another Middle Eastern quagmire because he’s the president and the president can do that. But as missiles careen into Syria and the U.S. lurches aimlessly into a broader military conflict involving Russia and Iran, at least we can say we called out Trump on Twitter for being inconsistent.

  • Evening news shows are ignoring ethnic cleansing of one of the world's most persecuted minorities

    The crisis has been mentioned merely three times in the past seven weeks

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Myanmar government’s military forces are conducting ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya Muslim population -- an ethnic and religious minority in Myanmar -- through systematic violence and expulsion. Facing murder, rape, and now famine, hundreds of thousands have fled the country in recent months. Prime-time cable news and broadcast evening newscasts, however, have been reluctant to cover what the U.N. is calling a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

    National newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post as well as Time magazine and NPR have reported extensively on the state-sponsored “clearance operations” with in-depth analyses and multimedia features devoted to the state-sponsored violence, but broadcast evening newscasts and prime-time cable news shows have been nearly silent on the issue. In a period of nearly two months following a government crackdown and subsequent mass flight of Rohingya from Myanmar into Bangladesh, evening news referenced the crisis a mere three times: in two reports by Fox News and one from ABC’s World News Tonight.

    Of the two reports by Fox News, one, which appeared on the September 21 edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, exploited the ethnic cleansing to scandalize Hillary Clinton’s past support for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi -- Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader who has drawn criticism for her failure to denounce the recent violence -- and to praise the response from President Donald Trump’s administration. The other Fox News report, which appeared on the October 10 edition of Special Report, was a 20-second segment in which host Bret Baier garbled the word “Rohingya” and focused on Pope Francis’ response to the violence.

    CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and evening prime-time programming on MSNBC and CNN completely ignored the humanitarian disaster taking place in Myanmar. While CNN International devoted almost 50 segments to the expulsion of Rohingya, none of these reports were re-aired during CNN’s evening programming. Moreover, most reports of Rohingya erasure on CNN International occurred on CNN Newsroom, a program that airs between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.

    While the Trump administration has called for the Myanmar military to cease its campaign against the Rohingya, U.S. officials have stopped short of encouraging a formal resolution condemning the violence or imposing targeted sanctions against the military’s leaders. Additionally, the United States still funds military cooperation with Myanmar. And the Trump administration has placed a ban on refugees from around the world and plans to cap refugee admissions over the next year at 45,000 -- the lowest limit ever. Last year, refugees to the United States from Myanmar, including Rohingya, outpaced arrivals from Syria, a nation that has been embroiled in a civil war for over six years that has displaced millions

    Activists say they are being censored, and local journalists say they are putting their lives on the line in order to expose Myanmar’s crimes against humanity. Cable and broadcast news networks have an opportunity and responsibility to lift up voices of the Rohingya, whose plight is only becoming more desperate amid the news cycle’s continued silence.

                           Dayanita Ramesh and Miles Le / Media Matters

    Methdology:

    Media Matters used Nexis to search transcripts from ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News and weekday programming between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from August 24 to October 16, 2017, for mentions of one or more of the following terms: Rohingya, Burma, Myanmar, or Bangladesh. Reports of flooding across South Asia were not included.

  • It’s time to pay attention to Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters 

    Myanmar government forces, under Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, are committing genocide against the country’s ethnic Rohingya minority group, the majority of whom are Muslim. The government of Myanmar claims these are “clearance operations” in retaliation for attacks by an insurgent terrorist military group that attacked police outposts, even though experts have found that the insurgents are few in number and poorly equipped.

    The United Nations has called the government of Myanmar’s actions “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” International investigators and reporters have gathered evidence and heard stories of entire villages being burned to the ground, women being gang-raped, and soldiers shooting at Rohingya as they attempt to flee violence. Over half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar to escape state violence since August 25.

    Right-wing media outlets are portraying this expulsion of the Rohingya as a “refugee crisis,” accusing the Rohingya of posing “a serious security threat” and even trying to justify the government violence as a response to what they refer to as “Islamic terrorism.” But in trying to justify the government’s violent and horrific actions by claiming it’s just a response to terrorism, thI thinkey are ignoring decades of oppression inflicted by the Myanmar state.

    The Rohingya are a stateless minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state; they are not a nationally recognized ethnic group and are not considered citizens of the majority-Buddhist Myanmar. As a result, the Rohingya are systematically barred from jobs, education, medical care, free worship, and open travel, in part due to reactionary ethnic nationalism laws put in place by the military regime that followed British colonialist rule. State laws restrict Rohingya families to two children, with those who break the law imprisoned and their children put on a blacklist. They’re not recognized as citizens, but rather seen as outsiders or intruders, even though many have lived in Myanmar their entire lives.

    Nobel Peace Prize winner and de facto civilian Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to denounce her government’s role in, and denied allegations of, ethnic cleansing, despite considerable evidence. She has been long been criticized for her anti-Muslim remarks and outright erasure of the plight of the Rohingya. Her fellow Nobel laureates are condemning her silence, and the Oxford City Council has withdrawn its “Freedom of Oxford” awards.

    The state-sponsored violence targeting the Rohingya has only gotten worse. It’s time to pay attention or the world will continue to miss the telltale signs of genocide.

    Resources for how to help the Rohingya (list via The New York Times):

    BRAC, a group founded in Bangladesh, was ranked the No. 1 nongovernmental organization in the world by NGO Advisor, which cited its adaptive approaches and strong community presence. Of the 350 staff members directly serving the refugee population in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, many are locals who speak a dialect similar to that of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. BRAC has built thousands of latrines, hundreds of tube wells and more than 50 child-friendly spaces and emergency health clinics that see thousands of children and patients every day, according to Emily Coppel and Matt Kertman, spokespersons for the group.

    Action Against Hunger is responding to the Rohingya crisis with hundreds of full-time staff members on the ground in Bangladesh, delivering hot meals and water, according to Elizabeth Wright, a spokeswoman for the group. Health workers are treating malnourished children, while mental health counselors are providing support to refugees suffering from acute stress and trauma. Having been in Bangladesh since 2007, Action Against Hunger is partnering with many local organizations and international groups in distributing food and water.

    Unicef is prioritizing shelter, food and water in its efforts to protect children and women, according to Jean-Jacques Simon, Unicef’s communications chief in Bangladesh. In addition to distributing water daily, the group has plans to install water pumps and deep tube wells in the camps. Malnourished children are receiving therapeutic food and supplements. In a news release on Sept. 17, the group also announced plans to vaccinate 150,000 children against measles, rubella and polio.

    Save the Children has been working in Bangladesh since 1970. In addition to distributing essentials like tents, cooking kits and hygiene kits to the displaced Rohingya, Save the Children is paying special attention to helping children, particularly those who are not accompanied by family members. It says 45 staff members are currently dedicated to the Rohingya response. The number of staff and local partners could be increased to 780 by the end of the year to support long-term aid for these refugees, according to Evan Schuurman, a spokesman for the group.

    Doctors Without Borders (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières) has worked in Bangladesh since 1985. At least 300 staff members are in Cox’s Bazar, treating ailments including severe dehydration, diarrheal diseases, violence-related injuries and cases of sexual violence, according to the group.

    The International Rescue Committee is helping the Rohingya remaining in Rakhine, with 400 staff members and volunteers providing medical care and emergency relief. Sanna Johnson, the group’s regional director for Asia, says its operations are complicated by restrictions from Myanmar’s government, which has banned international nongovernmental organizations from some areas of the state.

    UNHCR, the refugee agency for the United Nations has been working with Rohingya migrants since 1978. Of the UNHCR staff members responding to the most recent crisis, about 150 are in Bangladesh and nearly 30 are in Myanmar, according to Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, an emergency response coordinator. In addition to distributing emergency aid and shelter materials, the group gives protection and support to unaccompanied children, the elderly and survivors of rape and trauma.

    World Food Program is a United Nations agency that has been distributing high-energy biscuits to migrants as they have arrived in Bangladesh. It will continue to address food scarcity through subsidies in rice and nutritional powder. As of the end of September, 26 staff members were working with NGO partners and support staff in Cox’s Bazar, according to a spokeswoman, Silke Buhr.