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Collateral coverage: media images of Afghan refugees, 2001

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The paper is concerned with media coverage of the on-going refugee crisis in Afghanistan. It begins by looking at how the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center of 11 September 2001 had the result of stimulating renewed media interest in Afghan refugees. Paying special regard to the role of visual images in the reporting of disasters, the paper reviews the narrative strategies adopted by television news. It considers the factors that have instigated media response by examining some general issues arising from the media coverage of disasters. While the central focus of the study is BBC Television News Special Reports on the Afghan refugee crisis, selective comparisons are made with other television broadcast channels, Sky News and Euronews.

Based on the Afghan case study, I propose three main constituent factors contributing to the likelihood of effective media coverage of a refugee crisis. Firstly, in order to attract Western press coverage it is necessary for the crisis to be of such a magnitude that it cannot be ignored; or else it is necessary for it to be perceived as having some obvious connection with Western concerns. Secondly, the story will gain airtime if the nature of the crisis is such that it produces dramatic imagery - pictures with impact. Finally, if the style of the media coverage is sufficiently innovative it will stimulate interest in the viewers. The paper concludes with a critical review of media examples that break away from conventional news formulae.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-04-01

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