“Tear Gas Tastes Horrible”


Justin at the Capblanc Peninsula, Mauritania

My friend Justin was ready for an adventure after graduating from Arizona State University in 2008. He set off for Africa, where he spent four and a half months visiting Senegal, The Gambia, Mauritania, and Morocco. All this time, he chronicled his experiences on www.justinstravels.com. After a few entries I was hooked, and knew Justin would have plenty more tremendous stories to share upon his return to the United States. He’s finally home and was kind enough to answer a few questions about his observations—and interactions—with African media.

How in touch were you with the news in each country you visited?

 One of the best inventions is Google Alerts… for weeks prior, and every day while in Africa, if I had access to e-mail I was able to find the latest and most up-to-date news everyday for each country summarized nicely for me in a daily e-mail. It was very easy to keep up to date. A news television station wasn’t always so hard to find in Senegal and Morocco, however I didn’t see a single TV in Mauritania.

 Tell me about the media in Africa and your perceptions.

 Senegal, The Gambia, and Morocco are up-to-date much to the same effect as the United States– local and national daily radio and TV broadcasts, and newspapers were very common. Mauritania was a little outdated. Radio is likely more common then television. I mostly paid attention to the news on the TV, which was the easiest source to find, but was entirely in French and occasionally Wolof, the local language, of which I spoke very little. Surprisingly, television in Senegal offers very up-to-date national news and information from neighboring countries. I did manage to catch the news in Morocco sometimes, off the Al-Gazires network. It was very interesting to see extreme “Muslim” news… you can pretty much picture FOX news in the states… only instead of Glenn Beck spreading fear of terrorists, you have a Muslim spreading fear of Americans… I may be wrong though… it was in a different language, but the visual cues were fairly clear.

 Do you think the African media is effective in reaching everyday people?

 The interesting thing about Africa is that there are many well-developed cities bustling with activity and well satiated with news and media… and then there are towns and villages far off into the Sahara desert, or the Baobab forests in Senegal, which have few, if any, televisions, and a much less frequent connection to news. I would say radio would be the most common medium. Is it effective in reaching everyone? No, but this is a major infrastructure and development issue.

 Did you get a sense people knew what was going on in their country?

In Senegal I did, everyone seemed able to communicate very well about politics, economics, society, and the local environment/agriculture. I would say Morocco was the same, but again, Mauritania is in last place for this one.

Are there any African stories (other than Darfur) that you think are being underreported in the US media?

 Major flooding kills thousands, waste management/removal creates vast fields of waste. Sometimes a village is built on top of them and people literally get pulled into garbage sink holes and die. There are major pollution issues… we think our environmental policies are bad/need improvement? There are also large issues surrounding energy. Dakar, Senegal witnessed several power-outages during the month of Ramadan. I got to participate in a riot to get the governments attention… tear-gas tastes horrible.

 What was internet penetration like in the countries you visited?

 Cyber cafe’s are EVERYWHERE, and fairly priced, even for locals (for tourists they are extremely cheap). Some households in Senegal and Morocco had their own internet connections as well, hostels/hotels sometimes had wireless. But overall, connections were much slower and less dependable.

Be sure to check out Justin’s site, www.justinstravels.com. He’s planning some big changes for it soon, too!


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Justin’s Travels In Africa

Truly global stories have a way of reaching all corners of the world. Tomorrow I’ll have a full interview with my friend Justin about his recent adventures in Africa. Meanwile, read about his “most amazing media experience.”

“I was 16 hours inland in rural Mauritania… I mean RURAL, the village was in extreme poverty, and the surrounding area looked untouched by mankind. I was staying with several Peace Corps volunteers inside the village at the time… we had a laptop with occasional wireless internet, but it rarely worked. On the morning of June 26th (which is 5 hours ahead of US time), every Peace Corps volunteer, and Mauritanian’s as well, received a text on their mobile phones that Michael Jackson died… for the rest of my trip, nearly every African was sympathetic and amazed that something like this happened. In hours, the news of Michael Jackson’s death permeated into even the farthest villages of the Sahara desert.”

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The Lesser Known Wall

Ronald Reagan’s famous directive, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” was remembered this month as the world celebrated the twentieth anniversary of East Germany reuniting with the West.

But many forget there is still a wall in Europe.

It does not separate Communism from Capitalism, but it is still a visible fracture on the island of Cyprus.

 Cyprus has been a country divided for over 35 years. A wall separates this tiny island nation into two parts, one Greek, one Turkish.

 Prime Minister George Papandreou is stepping into the Reagan’s shoes and saying, “Mr. Erdogan, tear down this wall.”

 That would be Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

 Cyprus became a nation divided in 1963 after a tax dispute. Violence shook the island a year later, prompting UN Peacekeepers to intervene. Although Cyprus hasn’t seen violence in decades, there’s still a lot at stake in this deeply rooted conflict.

Cyprus is a member of the European Union, Turkey is not. And guess who has the power to shut the door on Turkey? Cyprus, of course. Their EU leadership holds veto power and could quash Turkey’s chances.

PM Papandreou wants a dialogue. He brought up Cyprus when he visited Turkey in October. He spoke with Secretary of State Clinton near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.  And at the rate President Obama is traveling, Papandreou hopes he’ll be able to soon broach the subject with the man himself in Athens.

 George Papandreou is starting to create some noise. With some persistence, he may just get his way.





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Argentina’s Crónica TV

Journalist and author Mei-Ling Hopgood was the guest at our weekly graduate lunch yesterday. For the past few years, Hopgood has lived in Buenos Aires with her husband, who was sent there by the Washington Post to be their South American correspondent.

With this blog in mind, I asked Hopgood what her impressions are of the media in Argentina. She said the media operates in an anything goes environment, where political correctness and respect for space are pushed aside. In her response, she named one particular channel: Crónica TV. Judging by what I’ve read and watched online, Crónica exemplifies these traits.

 I scoured Youtube for the best clips of Crónica to share on The World Beat. Unfortunately I did not find the puppet newscast Hopgood mentioned, however I did find a few clips from Crónica that illustrate her response.

 Check out the opening shot in the first clip. Could you imagine watching this on the 10 o’clock newcast?

The clip below demonstrates the lack of political correctness Hopgood mentioned. She was quick to point out though that everyone is fair game and Argentineans are capable of laughing at themselves. My rusty Spanish tells me the reporter is purposefully trying to irritate the Chinese man in the clip by asking him in Chinese people eat parrots. I do not know the purpose of the interview or how it was presented on the channel.

Here’s an example of a straightforward news package on Crónica.

What are your thoughts on Crónica TV?

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Life in Israel

I do not know if Adva is representative of the typical Israeli, but I found her views on news and life in Israel to be fascinating. I sat down with her last week in Tempe, Arizona.

I started by probing Adva’s daily media habits. Does she watch broadcasts? Go online? Get the newspaper delivered? For the most part, the answer is none of it. “To stay sane,” she said, “I drop it.” She has the belief that if something important is happening, “someone will always call you.” Israel is a nation of less than eight million people packed into an area one-eighth the size of Florida. In such a densely populated area, news travels fast.

As an American who has never been to Israel, my perception of what is going on in the country is greatly influenced by the media I consume. I usually hear about tension between Israel and Palestine. I was curious to learn more about how living so close to conflict impacts daily life.

Adva lives on a kibbutz. “It’s like a bubble,” she told me. “You don’t feel the conflict day to day.”

She said she chose her home because it’s, “safe, calm, and convenient.” Her two children attend school on the kibbutz and the entire family loves it.

After discussing the kibbutz, we talked about everything from food to movies and culture in Israel. Adva invited me to visit, and after establishing she was serious, I may just have to accept her offer.

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Israel: Is it a movie or news?

A wounded, underworld crime figure whispers the name of his assailant to detectives before he slips into a coma.

This is not the synopsis of the next Martin Scorsese movie, although it could just as easily be.

It’s actually news from Israel, and the story continues to unravel as though it was made for Hollywood.

Seventeen year old student Yiftah Mor-Yosef was on the receiving end of bullets meant for the man sitting next to him—36-year-old Einav Cohen, an alleged drug runner. Mor-Yosef was shot in the head. Cohen, who was shot in the torso, was able to see the gunman speed away on a motorcycle. 

Cut to Assaf Harofeh Hospital. Attempts failed to save Mor-Yosef, the bystander, who died a few hours later.

 Meanwhile, Cohen was losing consciousness. Detectives congregated at his bedside, hoping for him to offer any indication of who was responsible for this heinous act.

 He whispered, “Nir” before falling into a coma.

 Police were aware of Nir Haziza, another underworld crime figure, and decided to pursue the link. They had grounds for arresting Haziza after they realized he and Cohen had recently disagreed over a debt.

 Afraid of jeopardizing their case against Haziza, police issued a media gag order on the evidence behind his arrest.

Doubts within the justice system about whether there was enough evidence to continue detaining Haziza grew louder.

 Just as it seemed the case against Haziza was crumbling, Cohen unexpectedly woke up from his coma.

 Detectives rushed back to his bedside, and placed a pen and paper in front of him. Cohen, who could not speak at the time, wrote down the name of his attacker—Nir Haziza.

 Police officially indicted Haziza and the media gag order was lifted.

 As Cohen continued to heal, he was able to speak to police and offered an account of the shooting.

 Haziza and two other suspects are awaiting trial in Israel for the murder of Yiftah Mor-Yosef and the attempted murder of Einav Cohen.

 Check out the article from the Jerusalem Post and a video report.

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Raise your hand if you speak French

 There is something about holding a copy of Le Monde in your hands that instantly makes you feel classier. Even though I do not speak French, it was fun to pretend I could for a day. 

Le Monde combined everything into one section. Here’s how it was broken down:

 Front page >> Editorial >> International >> International & Europe >> France >> Economy >> Culture >> Fashion

The weekend edition included special sections on science, the arts, and “dossiers and documents”.

Le Monde


This week the Dossiers and Documents section was devoted to coverage of Communism. The articles examined turning points in Communist history, and also included coverage on Communism in today's world.


french newspapers 004

Le Monde prints an extensive radio schedule. (One of several pages)


french newspapers 008

Advertisements tended to be large and showcased luxury brands.



Pages of classified advertising, obituaries, and announcements can be found in the back of the newspaper. Perhaps the French haven’t given Craigslist as large of a “free meal” as the American newspapers have.



La Provence and La Marseillaise, two newspapers from Marseille, included separate sports sections. Dominating the coverage was soccer, rugby and Formula One racing.


 Le Monde weekend edition €1.40

La Provence €0.90

La Marseillaise €0.85


Finally, a big thank you goes out to Jennifer Hellum for the newspapers.


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