Fairfax boss dines on Blair spin

Mark Scott is editor-in-chief of Metropolitan, Regional and Community Newspapers for the Fairfax publishing group. An occasional public speaker, Scott today excels himself with an article on why the Sydney Morning Herald rarely examines the plight of Africa.

He writes: “A serious newspaper like the Herald tries not to shy away from presenting difficult but newsworthy stories that may confront and challenge. And we attempt to reveal the issues behind the horrifying statistics of world poverty and disease.”

Scott argues that “serious” newspapers essentially ignore world poverty because the issues are unlikely to engage readers. However, now that people like Bono, Bob Geldof and Tony Blair are “pushing poverty back into the headlines”, “editors will find it easier to put a big story about world poverty in their papers that people will read.”

Scott’s understanding of the issues is predictably Western-centric and shallow. The unspoken truth about the current round of “saving Africa” – clearly articulated by Webdiary’s Brian Bahnisch – is the fraud being pushed onto the general public. As George Monbiot argues, “the G8’s debt reduction plan is little better than an extortion racket.” Why?

The key to Blair’s supposed generosity towards Africa is the requirement of developing nations to accept massive amounts of foreign investment. In other words, the privatisation of essential services, such as water, gas and electricity. This Western “generosity” took place across Latin America in the 1990s and mass movements reacted angrily to “our” multinationals buying a country’s independence.

Monbiot explains:

“The G8 governments claim they want to help poor countries to develop and compete successfully. But they have a powerful commercial incentive to ensure that they compete unsuccessfully, and that our companies can grab their public services and obtain their commodities at rock bottom prices. The conditionalities we impose on the poor nations keep them on a short leash.

“That’s not the only conflict. The G8 finance ministers’ statement insists that the World Bank and IMF will monitor the indebted countries’ progress, and decide whether or not they are fit to be relieved of their burden. The World Bank and IMF, of course, are the agencies which have the most to lose from this redemption. They have a vested interest in ensuring that debt relief takes place as slowly as possible.”

Scott’s aims may be noble but his excuses for a major Australian newspaper are hollow. If he really wanted to engage the major issues related to debt and Africa, he’d invest in a full time journalist on the continent itself. Only the ABC has a full time reporter there, and she’s supposed to cover every country!

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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