Archbishop Welby’s Easter message guilty of lazy journalism

A day or so ago, in the lead up to Easter, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby used his Easter message to highlight the suffering of the people of Goma in war-torn Eastern Congo. While his sensitivity to the plight of the people of Goma is laudably compassionate, either he, or a very lazy sub-editor has done them a greater dis-service, by once again lumping a very specific part of the African continent, with the rest of it, with the very lazy headline that “even for those in the most desperate circumstances, such as war-torn Africa, the Easter message brings hope”. Here is not the place to dispute the platitude that the Easter message brings hope, but certainly it is the place to point out that Africa as a continent is no more war-torn than Europe, and the Archbishop or the Evening Standard do a dis-service both to Africans and specifically the people of Goma when their suffering is lumped under the generic heading of ‘African suffering’. That the headline is offensive to anyone who lives in a part of the continent that is not war-torn, hardly needs to be stated – far more important is the damage such continued misrepresentation of the whole continent does to the British public’s ability to understand and even empathise with the suffering of people in a far-away place like Goma, Eastern Congo. As we witnessed with the recent global reaction to the Ebola outbreak in three small, post-conflict states in West Africa: Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone – a poor sense of geography, and decades of lazy headlines, led to stupid actions such as visitors from Namibia arriving in Germany and being turned away at the airport because of an epidemic taking place thousands of miles away. There were thankfully few of such idiocies in Britain during the outbreak, however, it would still be fair to say the British Press has not done a good job of telling the story of Africa properly; talking about war-torn Africa, when Nigeria, the continent’s largest democracy just concluded a successful democratic election, and the majority of states are at peace is not only lazy but incredibly dishonest. The British press can, and should – do better.

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