Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Press and African Dictators

Ken Silverstein, who refuses to let Teodoro Obiang operate below the radar in Equatorial Guinea, today points out some of the problems with American press coverage of dictatorships. As he puts it, "If the U.S. government deems a country to be a hostile state, the American media will devote significant time and energy reporting on that country's political and economic problems. But if you're on our side, and especially in you're providing us with oil, you can get away with murder (literally)."

What, exactly, is the problem? Equatorial Guinea, which hosts significant investments by American oil companies and is the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, is absent from both the news and editorial pages of America's leading newspapers in spite of its appalling human rights record. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, which is regularly condemned by the United States Government, is covered (and criticized) regularly by the American media.

Silverstein notes that a piece in today's Washington Post "decried China's support for Zimbabwe." Furthermore, Silverstein says,

It called Beijing a "Mugabe enabler," and said it was about time that China began practicing "mature diplomacy" and halted its "hands-of"” policy that has "allowed Mugabe to stay in power." Just change the relevant words so that we're talking about the United States and Equatorial Guinea, and you'd have a very sensible editorial about a situation over which the United States actually has some control, given its great influence over the regime of Major General Teodoro Obiang.