THE BLOG
08/02/2016 07:46 GMT | Updated 06/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Star power and social media alone can't fix crises

I was recently asked on Twitter what can be done to revert mass global attention to the devastation caused by Boko Haram. This got me thinking: ever since the #BringBackOurGirls social media storm subsided, the powerful news agencies have paid very little attention to this crisis, despite attacks such the recent one in Dalori.

Tragically, the same can be said for the people in Darfur.

Does you remember George Clooney's involvement in the Save Darfur campaign?

In 2006, Mia Farrow, George Clooney and others passionately urged world leaders to act to stop the brutalities of this war raging in the western region of Sudan.

That was ten years ago.

Two days ago, the United Nations reported that about 44,700 people were forced to flee their homes in Darfur over the last 2 weeks because of the ongoing fighting between the government army and armed groups.

In the space of just 14 days, nearly 45,000 people were packing up whatever they could and running for their lives, literally.

A crisis of seismic proportions, right? Yet - have you heard this reported on mainstream news channels? Have world leaders gone flocking to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan to demand that action be taken to stop this travesty?

Nope. To my knowledge, at least - George Clooney hasn't spoken publicly about it. And no new hashtag has been created... Yet.

So - why are the lives of one, two, or even tens of thousands of girls, women, men and boys in some places regarded as newsworthy only when a hashtag becomes a trending social phenomenon, or when a multimillionaire American speaks out?

In all honesty, I am always delighted to see public reaction against racism, misogyny, bigotry and other cruelties. I'm a fan of #BlackLivesMatter, #Rhodesmustfall etc. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like have enabled millions of people to vent their outrage, profess their allegiance, or join a movement against unfairness and injustice.

But this passion, this anger, is transient. And then media interest wanes.

In April 2014, 276 school girls were taken from a boarding school in Chibok. The story is so tragic. We know it well. Many of them were preparing to take their exams when Boko Haram stormed and raided the school.

For days after this awful set of events, the former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan stayed silent.

So Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Antonia Banderas, Puff Daddy and scores of other celebrities spoke out. The starry spotlight soon produced the desired effect. Shortly after, world leaders gathered to discuss how to tackle Boko Haram.

So fast forward nearly 24 months on, where are we? Nigeria has a new President, most of the #Chibok girls (and yes, they have their own hashtag) are still not home, and hundreds of people continue to be killed by Boko Haram.

Authorities suggest that 85 people were killed in last week's attack in the village of Borno state. The Economist writes 'locals reported hearing children screaming as they were incinerated in their burning homes'.

Grotesque acts of murder, pillage, rape and abductions are still being committed by an albeit weakened Boko Haram, and yet the world looks away.

And the President (to start with, anyway) remained silent.

#Dalori isn't trending, you see.

Wesley Snipes or Michelle Obama haven't held up a piece of paper, taken a photograph and Tweeted #Dalori.

As a communications professional, I enjoy working with celebrities who are motivated about a cause. It's invigorating for me to hear Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Akon, Michelle Obama and others stand up for the issues I have spent much of my professional life campaigning for. I also see how socially trending stories can inject urgency and vibrancy into an issue, and in some cases galvanise authorities to respond.

Yes, the combination of social media and star power is intoxicating, and yes, powerful. Put together, world leaders can respond quickly. But on its own, it cannot solve a crisis.

Mainstream media, therefore, cannot be reliant on social media and celebrities to make this kind of story worldwide, top priority news.

They must dare to remain with stories even if they are unpalatable, hard to cover, or without a 'fresh angle'.

They must audaciously report a story even without access to a perfect English speaker; they must choose to challenge the authorities on the airwaves and in the newspaper interviews. And they must stay with a story even after Ms Jolie, Beyoncé and Bono exit stage left.

Many of us reading this are living in a country where there is freedom of the press and free speech. Two basic rights which, tragically, have been denied to millions around the world. So if media houses have this freedom, let's see them use it responsibly, without relying on a trending hashtag, or a sprinkle of stardust to make it part of their agenda.

Let's not wait for #Darfur or #Dalori to trend before we hear stories like these on our news channels.