Lunsjmøte om Vest-Sahara

Lunsjmøte om Vest-Sahara

Forrige uke hadde vi et lunsjmøte om Vest-Sahara. Vi fikk besøk av Asria Taleb Mohamed, som selv er saharawier og er oppvokst i en flyktningeleir i Algerie. I 2015 leverte hun sin master ved Universitetet i Oslo med tittelen "Domestication of Western Sahara - The Coverage of Western Sahara in Norwegian Printed Media, 2012-2014". Masteroppgaven i sin helhet er på 98 sider, og i dette blogginnlegget presenterer vi et lite utdrag fra oppgaven. I utdraget kan du lese om blant annet hennes bakgrunn, situasjonen i Vest-Sahara og om norske mediers dekning av det okkuperte Vest-Sahara. Vi vil takke for et veldig lærerikt besøk av Asria her i Lillehammer, og for at hun vil dele oppgaven sin med oss!

"Introducing myself for the first time to strangers in Norway came as a big shock to me. I was born and raised in refugee camps in Southwest Algeria. Throughout my childhood I saw foreign delegations, politicians, journalists visiting my camp. Some were United Nations officials in uniforms. Others were photographers with big and expensive camera equipment. I thought the whole world was busy finding a solution to the conflict that my family has fallen victim of. But when I reached out my hand in Oslo, and mentioned my country of origin, people did not know there was a conflict in Western Sahara. They had never even heard about the land I am from, nor that half my people fled from home. My disappointment was obvious, and these experiences inspired me to write this thesis. How much and what is written about the conflict in Norwegian media? And when it happens that the Norwegian media cover it, what kinds of events were found relevant to report on?

I have a very clear position on the conflict. My view is that it is urgent to find a solution, and that is must be in line with the right to self-determination of the people of the territory as called for by the United Nations. I therefore see it as crucial that, as a minimum, Western Sahara receives media attention. Any news and even any reference to the forgotten territory has its meaning. I am a member of the board of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, a non-governmental organisation with an agenda to defend the rights of the people of Western Sahara. In my opinion, the violations committed against international law, and the injustices against the Saharawi people, are important to cover by the news media. Six of the debate articles in the selected dataset are written by me. So, clearly my normative views have guided my choice of research topic. I do believe, however, that my personal opinions do not influence the gathering of data and my analysis.

Western Sahara is treated by the United Nations as the last unresolved colonial question on the African continent. Following the Moroccan occupation of the former Spanish colony in 1975, severe human rights abuses have taken place, and half the population has sought exile abroad. The parties to the conflict remain in UN-led peace talks. Yet, this conflict receives barely any attention by international media. This study assesses the Norwegian printed media coverage of Western Sahara of the three-year period from 1st of January 2012 to 31st of December 2014. It seeks to find the volume and the nature of the coverage, and to discuss why the stories mentioning Western Sahara end up being written. The total number of articles under study was 156.

The main finding is that there is an extreme tendency of so-called ‘domestication’ of the Western Sahara news in Norwegian media: 82 per cent of all articles have a clear Norwegian connection. ‘Domestication’ is a concept in media research describing an international issue viewed through national lenses. A clear majority of articles concern controversial Norwegian enterprises or investments in the territory (33 per cent of the articles), or Norwegian individuals caught up in the dispute (18 per cent). The coverage was in general not very thorough: None of the publications have ever sent a reporter, and the average number of sources per article was as low as 1,6.

The analysis showed a remarkable dependence on sources of Norwegian background. Almost no Saharawi are used as a source, and it happened only once during the three years that an expert/researcher was contacted for a comment. No Moroccan was ever contacted. The coverage shows a near total absence of political disagreements within Norway regarding the nature of the conflict. Analysis of news values and frames show two main types of articles: a human interest frame based on individuals being expelled from Western Sahara, and a conflict frame, regarding Norwegian companies and investors acting against advice from the Norwegian government."