Defining the Enemy Defines the Victim

Guest Post by: Lauren Peter, Aspiring PR Professional

Images of war and suffering in the Middle East still scatter the pages of America’s largest news outlets even after almost thirteen years of conflict. There have been thousands of American soldiers, innocent bystanders and citizens killed throughout the war. Actions by the Taliban have given hundreds of reporters something to write about.

Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl and education activist, gave news outlets around the world something to report in October 2012. From the get-go, she questioned the Taliban and spoke out against them: “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” During this time, the Taliban used their iron fist and forbade Pakistani girls from attending school, among denying other basic rights that females in the United States having. Speaking out against the Taliban, a group that has oppressed citizens across the Middle East since the early 1990s, ultimately caused tragic suffering for Malala. She was shot in the head by the Taliban on October 9, 2012. After the attempted assassination, Malala became the center of American media’s attention. The event received worldwide media coverage and produced an outpouring of sympathy and anger. Very powerful and influential American politicians, celebrities and activists spoke out on Malala’s behalf calling her a hero, and using her as the face of the consequences of the Taliban’s reign in the Middle East. Malala received dozens of national and international awards for her activism, along with receiving a nomination for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

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Nabila Rehman at Congressional hearing

Nabila Rehman, an eight-year-old Pakistani girl, has a similar story to Mall but hers ends very differently.   Nabila, along with her grandmother and siblings, fell victim to a CIA Predator drone attack on October 24, 2012. The drone killed her grandmother, injured Nabila and seven other innocent children. The attack received very little media attention and not much was reported about the event.  No apology, explanation or justification for the attack was issued by the United States. Nabila and her father travelled to the United States this past week for a Congressional hearing about the drone attack where only five out of 430 Congressional representatives showed up. Nabila was looking for answers and this was seemingly not well received by the United States Government.

Patterson and Wilkins, authors of Media Ethics: Issues and Cases, offer this statement regarding United States war efforts: “the turmoil surrounding how the United States responds to terrorist attacks and activities is a vivid example of how being loyal can inform decisions” (p. 82). How come Malala received international coverage for her suffering, but Nabila did not? Viewing the situation from a subjective standpoint, the only reason I can see is that reporting Nabila’s story makes her a threat to American war efforts. The Taliban almost killed Malala; a US drone, in contrast, caused Nabila’s suffering.

American media has in one respect a duty to report international news especially when it comes to ongoing Middle Eastern developments, but they seemingly chose to ignore an issue that would place the United States in bad light.  Is it fair that Nabila was pushed under the rug and given no explanation for the attack? I would have to say no, but American media is faced with conflicting loyalties. On one hand, if they report on the drone attack that shows the United States as being equally as violent as the Taliban, that could cause a lot more issues. On the other hand, ignoring such a massive tragedy causes ethical implications.

Malala was formed into a victim of the Taliban by American media; if the same were to be true for Nabila, she would be considered a victim of the United States. Ethically, Nabila’s story should be public knowledge for Americans. It was left out to ensure that the United States still remains in a somewhat positive light in Americans’ eyes. The only people recognized for their suffering in this conflict are those who fall victim to the enemy; Nabila didn’t serve that purpose, thus her story goes untold.


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