Al-Shabaab

New York Times team attends one of the first funerals in Kenya, with eyes open

New York Times team attends one of the first funerals in Kenya, with eyes open

The massacre at Garissa University College in Kenya is now fading into media memory, which is not the case for those of us who continue to be haunted by photos and stories that circulate on Twitter and Facebook among human-rights activists who are growing increasingly concerned about the persecution of the church in Africa and the Middle East.

For the most part, journalists around the world spotted the religious themes in this hellish drama -- with stunning exceptions like the early coverage in The Washington Post.

I was left asking one question: Would this story have received more coverage in television news if someone, early on, had accurately called this the "Holy Week massacre"? There was, after all, evidence that the al-Shabaab gunmen specifically targeted a pre-Easter worship service that had been announced on campus. The bloodbath took place on Maundy Thursday, for Catholics and Protestants in the churches of the West.

Sometimes, all reporters have to do to cover the religion angles in this kind of story is open their eyes and ears and take notes.

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Hey Washington Post editors: Did al-Shabaab say its goal was to kill Christians in Kenya?

Hey Washington Post editors: Did al-Shabaab say its goal was to kill Christians in Kenya?

Sad, but true. Mainstream European newspapers, as a rule, pay much more attention to foreign news than their American counterparts (unless, of course, a particular story involves Americans who are overseas). In recent years, it also seems that European newspapers are being much more candid about the role that religion plays in many international stories.

Want to see an example? Let's contrast two examples of coverage of the hellish Holy Week massacre at Garissa University College in Kenya, one from England and one from America. Let's start with The Telegraph, and then look at the main story in The Washington Post, which seems to have buried some key details.

At least 147 people have been killed after Islamist terrorists attacked a Kenyan university, singling out Christian students to murder.
A five-man cell of the Somali-based al-Shabaab group stormed into halls of residence at Garissa University College, 200 miles east of the capital Nairobi, Thursday morning, shooting at students before taking others hostage. ...
Many of those who had been killed had their throats cut, according to one source who had spoken to morgue workers. The report could not be immediately verified.
Security analysts feared that the gang intended to keep their remaining hostages overnight ahead of further violence on Friday, to maximise attention for their attack during the Easter holidays.

That is terribly blunt stuff. I thought it was crucial that -- consistent with the vast majority of reports in world media -- the Telegraph editors made the decision to put the word "Christian" in the lede and also, within a few paragraphs, to note the rather obvious Easter-holiday timing factor in the attack.

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Nairobi: Recite this confession of faith and live

The hellish events in Nairobi’s Westgate Premier Shopping Mall continue to unfold under the digital gaze of the world’s media. However, some of the most poignant and gripping elements of the story are as old as the region’s battles of conquest and conversion.

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Triumph of the stringer in the Nairobi massacre coverage

African reporters are coming into their own with the stories coming out of Kenya this weekend. If you step back from the reports on the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi — now entering its third day as of the writing of this post — and look not at the content of the news, but how it is being presented, you can see examples the changes taking place in journalism. Advances in technology, newspaper and network business models, and the worldviews brought to the reporting by journalists have resulted in different stories today than would have been written 10 years ago.

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