Western media boycott Arbaeen congregation; disregard for basic principles of journalism

Alwaght- Despite the significance and high news value of ‘Arbaeen Congregation’, the Western media deliberately censor the news about the Congregation and try to underrate the value and importance of the event.

The Arbaeen Congregation has had its own rituals and traditions; however, over the last few years, with the opening of routes to the shrine of Imam Hussein (AS), the Master of Martyrs, a large number of mourners and lovers of Imam Hussein head for Karbala.

According to official figures, in this year more than 22 million pilgrims from around the world have attended the ceremony; however, the Iraqi Minister of Transport said on Wednesday that the number of participants in Arbaeen Congregation in this year were 26 million people and he predicted that the number of pilgrims on the day of Arbaeen (3 December 2015), would reach 27 Million.

Nevertheless, in 2014 more than 20 million people participated in the event and there was an almost unpredictable growth compared to previous year.

If one views the event in a realistic manner, he or she would acknowledge that presence of such a large population in a ceremony, whether religious or not, is very significant in itself and could be considered a major event. If one takes into account the socio-political and regional importance of the situation in the West Asia, one can perceive the importance of the event. Iraq is in the midst of the crises in the West Asia and the ISIS terrorists have made many areas of the country unstable and insecure. In general, we can say that Iraq is an unstable and insecure country. However, being aware of the situation, millions of Shiites around the world travel long routes on foot to the holy city of Karbala in Iraq in an attempt to participate Arbaeen ceremony.

In terms of news value of such an event, with its unique properties, it has a very remarkable new story which deserves many reports, analysis, and news interpretation. In addition to new coverage, it could be a subject for numerous reports, analyses and commentaries. However, we see that the Western media demonstrated blatant disregard for this important news story and try to keep it marginalized. Nevertheless, the Western news agencies have many correspondents even in the most remote parts of the world who cover the news events immediately and minute-by-minute.

If we claim that “Arbaeen Congregation is quite newsworthy”, it is not biased or prejudiced, but it could be verified in terms of journalism whose major part is incidentally compiled by Western theorists.

Johan Galtung and Mary Holmboe Ruge are two prominent figures in “communication research” who have studied the subject of being newsworthy. These two figures published an article in 1965, entitled “the structure of domestic news” and discussed several important qualities of newsworthiness ​​that are still valid and cited.

They believed a newsworthy news story should have seven properties which includes: ‘inclusiveness’, ‘notability’, ‘conflict, challenge, and differences’, ‘exceptions and surprises’, ‘magnitude and size for the purpose of figures and statistics’, ‘proximity’, ‘being recent’.

If we consider the Arbaeen Congregation in the framework of above news values, we can see at least three out of seven properties are found in the event. For example, the presence of more than 20 million people from several countries including Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Bahrain, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, India, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc., ensure the inclusion, magnitude and high frequency of the event. If we are to compare the Arbaeen Congregation with another gatherings of the Muslim community, we should compare it with the Hajj. However, only 5 million people participate in the Hajj and the magnitude and frequency of Arbaeen Congregation is five times more than Hajj. In the non-Muslim world no such an event exists with such a frequency and magnitude.

The next property is conflict or challenge. Iraq was the first country which was targeted by ISIS terrorists, and the army and the people of this country every day are grappling with the terrorist forces and one can hardly find a day in which there is no explosion, or killing of innocent people in this country. If we take into account the anti-Shiite ideology of the ISIS, the gathering of the Shiite in Arbaeen in any moment was likely to be targeted by ISIS terrorists. Therefore, to hold such an event in an area that is involved in instability and insecurity would add to the importance of the event.

Another characteristics of Arbaeen which makes it newsworthy, is the quality of being unique and exceptional. As it was discussed, the Arbaeen Congregation is a unique and exceptional event, not only among the Muslims but also among the other religions of the world, and we dare to say that nowhere else in the world, one can find a similar event.

Despite the importance of the overcrowded procession of Arbaeen and its unique features we discussed, the Western media deliberately censor news about the event and try to underrate the value and importance of this news story. The most important reason for this could be the point that Iran is at the center of this political and religious event, and to highlight such an event is against their standards in the media! In fact, holding this great overcrowded procession in an unstable and insecure region, in a way that there has been not even a case of insecurity in Iraq or Iran, is a great success for both countries that the Western media do not wish to cover, or publicize in favor of Iran and the Shiites in Iraq. If one considers the successful holding of the Arbaeen Congregation, despite insecurity in the heart of Europe which has involved all the security forces of the European Union in the last few weeks, the censorship of such events would be easier to understand.

These reactions once again showed that the Western media highlight and cover any events that they wish. They do boycott any news event which is against their benefits or to advantage of their enemy. We have not forgotten how the Western media covered the terrorist attacks in Paris, and similar attacks in Lebanon two days before Paris attacks, while they were similar in nature and the number of victims was almost equal.

By Alwaght