The four-day war between Georgian and Russian forces has highlighted the challenges faced by the media as well as the great influence the media has in shaping world events. Unfortunately, the way the world events are shaping, human beings may no longer be relevant.
On August 8th as the world was excited about the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing came the breaking news about Georgia; the eruption of fighting between Russian and Georgian forces in south Ossettia.
Live footage of the opening of the Olympics showed several world leaders including US President George Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the audience at Beijing’s Birds Nest Stadium. As the story unfolded in the next days, the CNN and BBC portrayed the conflict as a Russian invasion of Georgia. Al Jazeera however, put it in context as a brutal Russian over-reaction to a Georgian adventure in Ossettia.
Even after Tuesday’s (August 12) declaration by the Russian President Dimitry Medvedev that he had ordered a halt to the military operations and a defiant speech by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at a rally in Tbilisi that Georgia was withdrawing from the CIS, it was still unclear as to who pulled the trigger first and whether offensive operations had indeed ceased.
Reports aired by CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera suggested that the civilian and military casualties could be high. The damage to property and the displacement of the population in the conflict areas in Georgia appear to be considerable.
The UN Security Council which debated the issue struggled and failed to even come out with a statement on the issue. The Official communiqué of the 5954th (closed) meeting of the Security Council is testimony to how ineffective it is in dealing with problems such as the conflict in Georgia. Although the permanent members of the UN Security Council have veto powers, they represent only 30% of the world population at the figures for the year 2000 carried on the UN website.
On Sunday, Reuters reported that both Russia and Georgia were armed not just with guns but with PR Agencies, and the battle was one to win hearts and minds both in the respective countries and beyond.
In the reporting of modern conflicts the who, why, what, when, where and how seem to be a huge gray area where the audience has to separate the facts from the spin.
Thomas Meaney and Harris Mylonas writing in Australia’s The Age could be closer to the truth in trying to analyse the reasons for the intensity of the conflict in Georgia.
It's clear that Mr Putin considers this payback time, not only for Georgia, Russia's meddlesome neighbour to the south, but also for President George Bush.
In February, Mr Bush and most leaders in Europe backed the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, which Mr Putin vociferously opposed. At the time US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave the assurance that "Kosovo cannot be seen as precedent for any other situation in the world today"
Was Kosovo the only thorn in Russia’s side? The writing has certainly been on the wall that something was waiting to happen. CNN has published an AP report on July 8, of a Russian Foreign Ministry statement:
Russia will be forced to make a military response if a U.S.-Czech Republic missile defense agreement is ratified, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
Nobody appears to have taken Russia seriously even though according to the US State Department’s website President Saakashvili in the presence of Secretary of State Rice is reported to have said this about Russia in Tbilisi on July 10:
Now what is the motivation? What’s the way – the Russians have been explaining this publicly as well as privately to us. This is their reaction to NATO expansion plans. This is their reaction to the independence of Kosovo. And this is their reaction to increasing U.S. presence here in the region. Looks like some people have not noticed that the Cold War is over.
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov disclosed at a Press Conference in Moscow August 12, that discussions had been going on with the US Secretary of State and others to avoid the confrontation for several days before it began, including the day before the confrontation erupted.
President Bush and Prime Minister Putin were both at the Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics as the death and destruction was beginning in South Ossettia. Could they not have discussed among themselves and prevented the unnecessary death, suffering and destruction that occurred? Was the EU unaware that there was an explosive situation in its backyard?
Or are we at an age when diplomacy is no longer relevant and only high-tech arms, ammunition and a grand super-power world order takes precedence over human beings?