On April 15, every news channel blared with the breaking story about the fire that damaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Within days, 900 million euros in donations were pledged, at least $500 million from notable billionaires, to help rebuild the cathedral. The media has the capacity to spread news quickly, one would expect a humanitarian crisis as large as the one in Sudan to receive the same amount of attention. Currently, there is a political uprising in Sudan, and the Sundanese people continue to pay the price. The lack of coverage surrounding the Sundanese crisis is deplorable. Western countries have used Sudan’s reputation as a developing nation to justify turning a blind eye to its suffering.
This lack of international media coverage parallels that for other political crises in developing nations worldwide. For instance, when 100 women gathered to protest election result in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011, they were met with a military attack. The story had potential to be a groundbreaking news story, yet media companies failed to provide coverage of the massacre.
The Sudanese crisis began shortly after the burning of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Within hours, media coverage of the fire prompted millions of dollars in donations and messages of solidarity from world leaders. In contrast, the Sundanese crisis received little attention when it started. Thousands of dollars went towards publicizing Notre Dame fire, revealing the priorities of the international media to be geared toward the preservation of history. The three historically black churches that burned down in Louisiana just one day after Notre Dame were given little coverage, further revealing the Eurocentric priorities of global media.
Due to media blackout, it is impossible for Sundanese journalists to publicly discuss the country’s issues. This is why it is the responsibility of influential countries, such as the U.S., to spread awareness about the massacre occurring in Sudan, and to take action to help stop it.
In recent months, there has been an increase in awareness regarding the crisis in the U.S. and Canada. While international media coverage lacked, American influencers took matters into their own hands to share the news. A social media movement sparked as a result of celebrities like Rihanna using their platforms to advocate for Sudan, causing social media users to “blue out” their avatars to promote awareness about the crisis. Activism in the age of social media has become a huge way to share world issues, with the blue out movement becoming a large reason that Sudan is receiving the attention it deserves
This is not the first time celebrities have done the job of international media, and further reveals the failure of multi-million dollar global news companies to actually report on world news in a timely manner. The responsibilities of a social media influencer are not the same as the responsibilities of the actual media in terms of sharing news. Yet, it could be that the Western world places more importance about global issues if they are reported by influential celebrities rather than actual news outlets, revealing the dependence that first world countries have on social media as a source for world news.
As the people in Sudan continue to fight for basic human rights and the systematic political oppression in the North African country grows, the Western world has a responsibility to use its resources to help alleviate the problem and is called to take action as the media fails to provide adequate coverage. The problem runs closer to home if McGill’s international student population is considered. McGill houses students from all over the world, Sudan and South Sudan included. The implications of the Sundanese crisis extends beyond Sudan’s borders, impacting the families and extended families of those directly enduring the wrath of the Sundanese government. As a renowned intellectual and academic community vested in the arts, history, and politics, McGill has a responsibility to lead the way in calling out human rights violations, advocating for the voiceless on a world stage. As a result, McGill has a specific responsibility to call attention to the Sundanese crisis. It is crucial that the students of McGill, and the rest of North America continue to advocate for civilian rights in Sudan and act as the voice of the Sundanese people as they continue to be silenced.