Covering the Nigerian Schoolgirl Kidnapping

Friday, May 16, 2014


Boko Haram's kidnapping of more than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls has received global attention thanks to a viral hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls, but violence by Boko Haram is nothing new in Nigeria. Bob talks with Nigerian journalist Alexis Okeowo, who has been covering the story for years, about the international media's sudden interest.


Alexis Okeowo

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [4]

Camille Hallstrom from 37409

Here's yet another example, as discussed in "The Independent" at

Jul. 26 2014 01:45 PM
Chris from Arizona

This was a disgusting, and racist statement: "The girls were not blonde cheerleaders, so initial US coverage of the mass abduction was slight."

Tell me how otherwise.

Jul. 15 2014 06:14 PM
Camille Hallstrom

Western media (and often, even more egregiously, American media) have a long history of ignoring issues of massive, global importance which simply don't seem to fit their mysterious "this is really news" template. Certainly the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army kidnapped school girls in a similar fashion to Boko Haram in 1996. It is an astonishing story, particularly given that their deputy headmistress pursued them into the bush herself and negotiated with LRA commanders, managing to win the release of many of them ( Belgian journalist Els De Temmerman wrote a heart-stopping book about it, "Aboke Girls" in 2001 (, but how much did the U.S. ever hear about the LRA's numerous depredations until the (admittedly controversial) group “Invisible Children” started bringing them to our attention in 2004?
Similarly, for years, during the decades long, genocidal war between then southern Sudan and the Khartoum government of northern Sudan, I had to field questions from southern Sudanese friends -- "Why does the West ignore our suffering? You helped in the struggles of the former Yugoslavia, why not us? Is it important to you only when Muslims, not Christians, die?” I never had a good answer to give; and while I don't know if the southern Sudanese read on the situation is correct, I do know that I almost never heard anything about the Sudanese north-south conflict in American media, but come 2003 when Khartoum started the conflict in Darfur – a region of black African Muslims, not Christians, that conflict got regular mention. The article below demonstrates how U.S. media (not necessarily European media, by the way) continually under-report stories on what the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds is the religious group suffering persecution in more places today than any other.
So just why are American media so blinkered, so tone deaf? Can you solve the mystery, “On the Media?” It's vitally important someone does. This is not simply a matter of apparent indifference it is one of gross injustice.

Jun. 23 2014 12:29 PM
Pamela Fitzsimmons from Portland, OR

Bob Garfield states that because none of the Nigerian school girls were "blonde cheerleaders," the media initially ignored the story. Not true. There were at least brief references to the kidnappings in the New York Times and on NPR.

However, what the American media were really upset about in the early days of the kidnappings were the racist rantings of the LA Clippers' owner, Donald Sterling. Even Oprah was more quick to pounce on Sterling's "plantation" mentality towards his highly-paid basketball players, than she was on Boko Haram's actual enslavement of females.

The problem isn't that none of the kidnapped girls are blonde. The problem is that none of the kidnappers have skin as white as Sterling's. If just one of them were as white as Sterling, the media would have quickly found its outrage.

May. 18 2014 08:07 PM

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