Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Press provides selective coverage of Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai has recently received her Nobel Peace prize, an award she deserves much more than people such as Barack Obama or Henry Kissinger who have at times promoted war but who were also awarded the prize.

Malala has spent her life promoting education for children, certainly a noble cause and worth supporting. The western media applauds and publicizes statements such as the one she made to the UN: "..let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen, can change the world. Education is the only solution.” Emphasis upon education alone however, as Ben Norton points out, fails to call attention to the fact that most citizens in underdeveloped countries suffer also from grinding poverty. Malala herself in her statements has not ignored this factor. In the same speech in which she emphasized the role of education, she also emphasized what she called " a glorious struggle against illiteracy poverty, and terrorism." The western media can well applaud her fight for education and against terrorism but there has been little emphasis on her fight against a poverty which helps produce some of the reactionary ideologies against which she is struggling.
  One quarter of the global population live on less than $1.25 per day. UNICEF estimates that 24,000 children under the age of five die every day due to poverty. There are other aspects of Malala's message which are little emphasized in most press accounts among them being her opposition to Obama's drone program. While praising Malala's non-violent approach to change, at the same time many of her supporters may also defend strongly the use of violence in the war on terror including Obama's extensive drone program.

 When Malala met with Obama and his family on October 11 2013 the White House statement stressed Malala's work to promote education of girls: "The United States joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala's courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realize their dreams." In a statement published by the Associated Press on the meeting, Malala said: "I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees, I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact." There was silence from the White House on the drone remarks.

Not long afterwards, Nabila Rehman, an eight-year-old Pakistani girl was out picking okra in a field when her grandmother was "eviscerated right before her eyes by a US drone strike." She testified before Congress as did her 13-year-old brother who was injured in the blast. While there was some limited coverage in the press of the testimony, there was no praise of that testimony coming from the White House. Only five out of 430 Congressional members bothered to turn up for the hearing. While the Rehmans were testifying, Obama could not attend because he was busy meeting with the CEO of Lockheed Martin that among other activities manufactures weapons for the US military.

An aspect of Malala's views that is even less covered is her opposition to capitalism. In July of 2012 she had taken part in the national Marxist Summer School in Swat. In March of 2013 she sent a message to the congress of the International Marxist Tendency(IMT) indicating her support for socialism: “First of all I’d like to thank The Struggle and the IMT for giving me a chance to speak last year at their Summer Marxist School in Swat and also for introducing me to Marxism and Socialism. I just want to say that in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for any one else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves? I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the congress. I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.” Only selected aspects of Malala's world view our allowed to filter through to be emphasized by the media.

No comments: