Severn Suzuki at the United Nations, 1992

In Climate Change, Environment, Global Issues on February 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm


It’s been almost 20 years, UN! Let’s do something!

One of the best arguments against Gaddafi…

In Global Issues, Human Rights on February 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm


Click through to sign a petition and send help to Libya!

Letter to the Editor: Libya not receiving the coverage it deserves

In Genocide, Global Issues, Human Rights on February 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm
Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (in Dimashq, Syr...

Image via Wikipedia

So I wrote up a letter to the editor of my college newspaper, The Collegiate Times, about what’s going on in Libya. Since I don’t know if I’ll be published or not, here’s what I wrote for a read:

In light of news headlines and Twitter trends these past few months, I have to say that I am highly disappointed with American media’s coverage of the protests in Egypt, Tunisia and now in Libya.

Exactly what is going on in Libya? The country is on the brink of a revolution—Libyans have been taking to the streets this past week, protesting the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi, a man who has held on to the presidency since 1969. Gaddafi is accused of several crimes against humanity, including the Abu Salim massacre of 1996 in Tripoli, which killed more than 1,200 prisoners. Civilians are being subject to bombing raids by the state army in an attempt to quell one of the bloodiest battles for freedom in the Arab world. Reports say over 1,000 civilians have been killed in these protests.

I was honestly expecting to hear more about this revolution on the TV and the internet (especially the CT). Instead, I am highly disappointed that the media gives greater priority to Justin Beiber and Rahm Emmanuel than such an important and groundbreaking series of protests.

Libya is experiencing the domino effect of Tunisia’s revolt against its own authoritarian government, which started on early January. Factors such as high unemployment, rising food prices and lack of voice in the government led many Tunisians to protest against their president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali was ousted on Jan. 14, 2011, and a coalition government is currently in power.

Egypt picked up where Tunisia left off, starting a weeklong series of protests against the regime of Hosni Mubarak—a man who has been the President for Egypt for the past 30 years. Mubarak has maintained a state of emergency in the country since election, citing internal violence and terrorism to ban protests and control all media and publications in the country. Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11, but the country is still in the hands of the armed forces and Vice President Omar Suleiman, the chief of the Egypt’s General Intelligence Service.

Many countries in North Africa and the Middle East, such as Jordan, Syria and Yemen, are worried about becoming the next Egypt.  They all face similar conditions: rising food prices, unemployment, oppressive regimes, and an increasingly younger population. For example, the median age of Egypt’s population is 24, which means many young people are without jobs. Unemployment rates in Egypt have hovered around 10% for several years. Additionally, most of these countries have very high corruption rates—Transparency International ranks Libya as the 32nd most corrupt country in the world. Such factors are generally combine to create a ticking time bomb: people across the Arab world are becoming more and more motivated by the ongoing demonstrations, and are taking to the streets to fight years of oppression.

And now, we have Libya—a country that has been suffering under their dictator, Muammar al-Gaddafi, for over 40 years. Under Gaddafi, Libya has become an authoritarian state with limited political and human freedoms. Gaddafi has engaged in international terrorism, most famously in the 1972 Black September killings, and has helped with the establishment of favorable corrupt regimes in Africa, such as the election of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Libya is the 3rd largest oil-producing country in Africa, and Gaddafi’s family has embezzled many of the profits from the country’s booming oil industry. To say the least, he has a history of nepotism, corruption and power play. Yet, he seems just as determined as ever to hang on to his position. In his televised speech on Feb. 22, Gaddafi vowed to fight “to the last bullet”, and denied rumors that he had fled to Venezuela to escape the protests. As the situation escalates, Gaddafi seems to have no intention of stepping down like Mubarak did—and he is ready to kill Libyans that dare to voice their dissent against him.

As a concerned student, I feel that we need to get our priorities straight. As global citizens, it is our responsibility to know and care about what is going on around the world, and voice our concerns about humanitarian crises, as removed from them as we may be. The future of a country is definitely more important than celebrity news or gossip, which is unfortunately more talked about today. What is currently going on in Libya and North Africa will change the lives of millions, and ours in the near future. We need to be cognizant of that, and media needs to reflect this change. Such a shift of perspective is the first step towards an objective media model, such as the one established by Al Jazeera. With an objective news model, we would not rely on media analysts to form our opinions for us, and news networks would play the sole role that they should be playing: reporting news as it happens and keeping the public informed.