Failing Failed States: Who Forgets the Forgotten?

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Holm, Hans-Henrik (2002) Failing Failed States: Who Forgets the Forgotten? , Security Dialogue 33(4): 457.

HANS-HENRIK HOLM

Danish School of Journalism, Århus, Denmark

When states are failing, when basic state functions are no longer carried out, and when people have no security, humanitarian crises erupt. In confronting this problem, the stronger states have followed an ad hoc policy of intervention and aid. In some cases, humanitarian disasters have resulted from inaction. Often, the media are blamed. Politicians complain about the media when they interfere (the CNN effect), and when they do not. This article looks at how the media do cover failing states. Sierra Leone and Congo are used as examples. The analysis shows that there is little independent coverage. A Danish survey of newsrooms shows that the national world-view and prevalent news criteria prevent consistent coverage. It is argued that politicians are the ones who determine national agendas: it is from political initiatives, rather than media coverage, that failing states and humanitarian crises can expect action.