The Nigerian Civil War and its media – groping for clues

Ugochukwu, Françoise (2010). The Nigerian Civil War and its media – groping for clues. Media, War & Conflict, 3(2) pp. 182–201.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1750635210360083

Abstract

Following months of political instability in Nigeria and the massacres of Igbo people in the north of the country during the summer and fall of 1966, the situation deteriorated rapidly. On 30 May 1967, the Eastern Region (Igboland) unilaterally declared its independence, triggering a civil war that, coupled with a tight economic blockade of the secessionist region and the logistic support of foreign powers, turned into a three-year conflict that claimed over three million lives. Nigerian and Biafran troops were engaged in battle from 6 July 1967 until 12 January 1970, when the war ended with Biafra’s surrender. All through the conflict, but especially from 1968—9, the world media converged on Nigeria, trying their best to cover the conflict for their audiences, with mixed fortunes. This study, based on radio bulletins gathered daily in France from 1968 to 1970 from the BBC World Service, Voice of America, France-Inter, Radio-France International, Europe n.1, Radio-Brussels, Radio-Lausanne and Radio-Canada, reveals the way the media groped their way through a flurry of contradicting nuggets of information in a desperate hunt for the truth on a far-away nightmare, with unreliable sources contributing to the confusion and a proliferation of unreliable pieces of news. In spite of these limitations, the media succeeded in covering the progress on the ground, the unfolding of the humanitarian situation and mounting casualties, the arms race and the political scene, and eventually achieved their aim — that of attracting the world’s attention to Nigeria.

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