The World Must Start Talking About the Terrorist Attack in Nigeria

by Felice León

Within the past few weeks, the world has witnessed acts of terrorism that were truly atrocities to the modern world. We are living in tumultuous times and the world’s attention is focused on terrorism and anti-terrorism efforts.

On January 3, 2015 terrorist group Boko Haram virtually annihilated Baga and Doron Baga, towns in Northern Nigeria. According to Amnesty International, there are said to be as many as 2,000 dead and 3,700 buildings destroyed.

Four days later, two brothers ambushed Charlie Hebdo’s newsroom in Paris, killing 12 people. Subsequently, there was another “lone-wolf” terrorist attack in France, killing four at a kosher supermarket. A total of 17 people were killed in France during this spree of terrorism.

What these massacres have in common is that they were senseless acts of hate against unarmed people. Though, vastly disparate is the amount of coverage that the incidents received in the mainstream media.

I remember when I heard of the Boko Haram massacre, it was the same day as the Charlie Hebdo attacks. I was tuned-in to cable news the entire day. American commentators were relentless: giving to-the-minute updates as the story unfolded. The same analysts and talking heads cycled on and off the television. That day the news almost entirely focused on Charlie Hebdo. At one point there was a news spot (consisting of 30 seconds, maybe), and that was when I learned of the Boko Haram assault. The news flash was so fast that I could barely digest its contents. To add insult to injury, the coverage was repeated with the same obscure information.

How could this be? How could a terrorist attack killing 2,000 people be an afterthought in American media?

The narrative of Black Americans is often untold – let alone the lives of Black and Brown people outside of the western world. Recent decisions not to indict officers in the Michael Brown case and the Eric Garner case indicate that Black lives are devalued in this country. The mainstream media has showed the world that this devaluation of Black lives is consistent through the world by its blatant disregard for the atrocities in Africa. This is nothing new. In April 2014, the Boko Haram abducted over 200 schoolgirls from a northeastern town of Chibok. To this day, a majority of the girls remain missing (Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, claimed that the girls were married off to militants).

Excuses in defense of the mainstream media varied: Baga is a remote town in northeast Nigeria and it is a difficult area to cover. The number of casualties in the attack can’t be entirely verified by officials in Nigeria. The Nigerian government isn’t responding adequately to the attack. The list goes on. Let’s keep it real – the reason why the attacks received so little coverage by the mainstream media is because the victims are Black and Brown people outside of the Western world.

The Boko Haram massacre consisted of Africans, killing Africans, in Africa. Sadly, there is still ignorant western notions of barbarism associated with Africa. Killing is seen as being more common and seen as less civilized, thus a mass killing of nearly 2,000 is less newsworthy. This is absolutely ridiculous.

Furthermore, Nigeria is over 5,000 miles from the Unites States. With aims of creating an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria, Boko Haram poses less of a threat to this country than other terrorist groups. Thus, this atrocity is easily swept under the rug.

The Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine established by white Frenchmen in the 1970s. The newsroom attack consisted of two brothers of Algerian descent, killing French people in France. I wholeheartedly support the rights of journalists to practice freedom of speech, but I also believe that the publication lacked judgment and was disrespectful towards many. The staff at Charlie Hebdo published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad because it was their right. They had the ability to do so and exerted their privilege. The western world responded with an outpouring of support.

My prayer is for peace. Though, at this point in time, peace may seem a bit far-off. I hope that minimally, the media will give voice to those whose voices have been silenced. I hope that mainstream media will find ways to breathe life into the victims of terrorism – those of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the Boko Haram massacre.

Photo: Reuters

Felice León is a recent graduate of the Columbia Journalism School and freelance journalist from New York. You can follow her on Twitter @RTSWFL or at

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