Hidden in the Limelight of Tsunami (2009)

Filmmaker: J Hyndman

When it comes to disasters, international aid agencies and the international news media find themselves entangled in a complex relationship of mutual dependency. Due to what is sometimes called ‘the CNN effect’ and the rapid transmission of images and news across space, the media tremendously shape the global aid landscape. The film at hand explores how aid agencies adapt to particular media environments in disaster settings and, in turn, how this impacts their priorities and performance in delivering humanitarian assistance where it is needed. These issues are probed using the example of Aceh, the Indonesian province that was the highly publicized scene of the extraordinarily well-funded 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. In contrast, the underfunded silent disaster in Aceh resulting from protracted violent conflict between the Indonesian Government and the rebel, Free Aceh Movement, was largely invisible. Highlighting recent trends in the modem operandi of international news media and the aid industry, this case study indicates that transparency, independence and accountability are key principles that can avert the disparities between humanitarian disasters. Silent emergencies may not be tsunamis, but human life is nonetheless at risk.

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