|Wikileaks:||View 01ABUJA2520 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||KPAO OIIP SCUL PREL PROP NI|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002520 SIPDIS STATE FOR AF/PD, IIP/G/AF LAGOS FOR PAS, POL E.O. 12598: N/A TAGS: KPAO, OIIP, SCUL, PREL, PROP, NI SUBJECT: THE TERROR ATTACKS AND U.S. POLICY IN THE NIGERIAN MEDIA 1. SUMMARY: This cable provides a thumbnail summary of trends in the Nigerian media since the terror attacks on New York and Washington on September 11. On the whole, Nigerians were as shocked by the attacks as Americans. The media accurately reported the story and the immediate condemnations of the terror attacks by Nigerian leaders. They reported that there were also Nigerian casualties. Media and commentators in the south have tended to be very supportive of the U.S. While also indicting the terrorism, media in the north have urged restraint and caution, and they have demanded proof that Osama bin Laden authored the attacks. North or south, there has been a generous amount of "yes, but" commentary. (Yes, we condemn the attacks, but the U.S. must change its policies.) In recent days, some northern newspapers have begun to include anti-Semitic propaganda. The first column outrightly supporting the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden also has appeared. Topics in this cable: Media Trends Since September 11 . . . . . . .Graf 2 South and North . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Main Themes of Criticism. . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Anti-Semitic Disinformation . . . . . . . . . . . 14 The First Pro-Bin Laden Column. . . . . . . . . . 15 Elite Opinion and Street-and-Market Opinion . . . 17 END SUMMARY. Media Trends Since September 11 ------------------------------- 2. The news story of the attacks on New York and Washington was so overwhelming that it took up to 2/3 of the domestic TV news for several days. Nigerians know what happened, and they are keen to learn what the U.S. response will be. 3. The newspapers gave generous ink to the big story, with many running sensational front page color photos each day during the first two weeks after the attacks. Several leading dailies continue to fill 2-6 inside pages daily with news related to terrorism, the U.S. response, and the results of the investigations. 4. More or less sound stories have, however, often been preceded by inaccurate, yellow journalism headlines that would make William Randolph Hearst proud. In the headlines, the war tocsins are sounding. 5. The media gave full coverage when Nigeria's government and the nation's political, religious, and social leaders, north and south, Chrisian and Muslim, expressed their condemnation of the attacks. The Embassy has reported that the early reports of jubilation in Zamfara State were baseless -- an unverified report by a rookie BBC stringer. 6. Most of the news coverage has come from the international wires, and from the international papers and newsmagazines (summary articles, "culled from ---" in the local argot). The use of the international wires is good news for the maturing of journalism in Nigeria, but it initially depressed PAS placements. We are putting out half a dozen Washington File articles a day to 20 major newspapers -- but for the first two weeks after the attacks we had barely half a dozen direct placements. Editors are relying on the wires to report U.S. policy, not the Embassy. 7. Nigerians have also gotten the message that non- Americans were killed in the attacks. Nigerians know that compatriots are among the victims, but because many of these victims were illegally in the U.S., using false names, the specific number and identities of Nigeria's losses are unknown. 8. Serious reportage and commentary shares the pages with lighter fare. Many articles have explained to readers how the attacks were predicted by ... Nostradamus ... the Bible ... the Blessed Mother ... the Koran ... and/or various contemporary prophets. South and North --------------- 9. It must be recalled at all times that the media in Nigeria reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of the country. Also, the attacks on the U.S. occurred just as Nigeria was undergoing a cycle of social/ethnic/religious tension. Our best estimate is that 2300 people died in the violence in Jos, which began four days before the attacks. This no doubt colors individual Nigerian perceptions of the terrorist attacks and the possible U.S. response thereto. 10. Some regional differences in the amount of coverage are evident. Most of the major newspapers in Lagos covered the story with eye-catching photos and headlines, with several inside pages developing the story along different lines. Their pages included dozens of columns, mostly expressing sympathy for the U.S. In many of the Lagos papers, there is an undertone of "we've been telling you so" about religious extremists. 11. The state government-owned newspapers in Nigeria's largely Muslim north -- the Triumph in Kano, the New Nigerian in Kaduna, the Path in Sokoto -- have given the story conspicuously less news coverage. Columns initially emphasized the need for American restraint, asked for clear proof of Osama bin Laden's involvement, and advised against a hasty U.S. response. As the shock of the initial attacks wears off, however, a few northern columnists are voicing harsher criticisms of the U.S. 12. South or north, however, it would be wrong to say that Nigerian news has been crowded out. The news of the attacks and the U.S. response competes for reader attention with the normal, contentious political news of the country. Focus on the Critics -------------------- 13. Most editorial comment and most columnists -- south and north -- fall into the "yes, but" category. Yes, the attacks have been a terrible tragedy for the U.S. and the world. Yes, we condemn the perpetrators. But ... ... the United States has been humbled. ... the United States, all now can see, is not as powerful as its image. ... the United States is rushing to judgment against Osama bin Laden when there is no real proof of his involvement, violating its own democratic precept that one is innocent until proven guilty. ... the attacks expressed in a terrible way ... ... how much the U.S. is hated for its unilateralism and its arrogance in international affairs, or ... how some have reacted to America's one-sided support of Israel and its sanction of Israeli violence against the Palestinians, or ... how America deserves punishment for being the world's worst terrorist (either by act or by silence), in the Gulf War, in Sudan, against the Iraqi people, against the Palestinians, etc. The United States should not rush to judgment against Osama bin Laden. Remember that the Oklahoma city bombing was carried out by an American. Remember that one of those tried for the Lockerbie bombing was found innocent. The United States cannot act ... ... unless it gives the world conclusive proof that bin Laden ordered the attacks. ... if any innocents will be harmed. The killings, assaults, mosque bombings, burnings of businesses and homes, and racial profiling of Muslims in the United States are shameful indications of deep American hostility toward Islam. The attacks are a consequence of the rich curtain of dishonesty in the 2000 American election, which put George Bush in the White House even though he had not been elected by the majority of the people. Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories -------------------------------- 14. Newspapers over the weekend included some new conspiracy theories pointing the finger toward Israel and the Jews as the true perpetrators of the attack. The independent Weekly Trust -- citing Jordan's Al-Watah -- reported that 4000 Israelis, tipped off by the Israeli government, stayed away from work on September 11. The tabloid News Express, reporting the same story, simply said 4000 Jews stayed home. It also reported conspiratorily that "the 14 story adjoining edifice to the WTC-owned by the well known Jewish firm of Solomon & Co. was sold off suddenly about 2 weeks prior to the attack." These unfortunate stories indicate that a minority of Nigerian journalists are tuned in to criticisms of the U.S. emanating from the Middle East and journalistic sources there. We may need to consider how OIIP can counter this kind of disinformation. The First Expression of Support for Bin Laden --------------------------------------------- 15. In its Sunday edition the independent Weekly Trust, published in Abuja, printed a "Friday discourse" by Dr. Aliyu Tilde. It is, to our knowledge, the first outright expression of support for Bin Laden. "While we sympathize with all nations and families that lost their members in the WTC attack and hope that actual truth behind it will one day be discovered, we have chosen today to side with the Taliban and pray for the safety of Bin Laden or his martyrdom. America has accused them unjustifiably." 16. Tilde, an educator from Bauchi State, has been known for many years as a strong critic of the West. This column is not yet on his web page, www.fridaydiscourse.com. Visible Elite Opinion and Village, Market, and Street Opinion ----------------------------------- 17. The newspapers and the television tend to capture elite opinion -- the views of those who speak and write English and read newspapers. The government and prominent Nigerians who have spoken have roundly condemned the attacks. 18. We believe, in this instance, elite opinion reflects general public opinion. Nonetheless, currents less sympathetic to the U.S. are visible. What reading and listening can't tell us, however, is precisely how widespread this negative reaction is at the popular level - - in streets and markets. Media coverage generally does not reveal what the imam may say at Friday prayers, or the deacon when speaking to fellow congregants. They don't offer much about how the attacks and American reaction may affect the matrix of pre-existing social, ethnic, and religious tensions in Nigeria. The appearance of anti- Semitic disinformation and a column in support of Bin Laden may, or may not, be the first in-print expressions of a more volatile, minority segment of public opinion that lurked below the surface immediately after the attacks. We will be alert for further trends. JETER
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