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Western media shows death only when it is in Africa

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Let us try a little thought experiment. Imagine, if you will, that rather than Europe and North America, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus pandemic was Africa, and the disease was killing many tens of thousands of people there. What images and storylines would be used to tell the story on TV screens and newspaper front pages in the West? Would they differ from those being employed by editors to explain the tragedy the virus is cutting across the global north?

Well, as it turns out, we do not need to imagine. There was just such an infectious disease that tore through West Africa five years ago, and we can examine how that was reported. The Ebola epidemic, which struck in 2014, affected six countries in Africa, with isolated cases being recorded in North America and Western Europe. The disease killed more than 11,300 people, all but one in West Africa, particularly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Although this is a fraction of the numbers associated with COVID-19 today, the coverage in the Western press was much less restrained, at least as far as the showing of bodies and portrayal of grief was concerned.

"Images of dead bodies in the streets and medical workers in hazmat suits" was staple fare. Daniel Berehulak, an Australian photojournalist working for the New York Times, was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for his coverage of the epidemic. He had "followed a burial team and documented a trail of the........

© Al Jazeera