Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Excerpts from three articles discussing the same event:

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

Syrian President Bashar Assad arrives in Turkey today, beginning a three-day ground-breaking visit to Ankara and the financial capital of Istanbul. High on the agenda for the visit will be discussions concerning ways to improve economic ties and security cooperation between Syria and Turkey.
Assad's visit, the first of its kind by a Syrian president, comes amid an atmosphere of spectacular rapprochement in relations between Turkey and Syria -- two countries that came to the brink of war just a few years ago.

Assad Urges WMD Ban During Landmark Turkey Visit

ANKARA (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued
fresh calls for a Middle East free of weapons of mass
destruction during a landmark Turkish visit on Tuesday, but
defended his right to acquire them against Israeli
Assad, seeking to cultivate better relations with Turkey
after decades of frostiness and a near war, said Ankara --
which has close ties with nuclear power Israel as well as the
United States -- had backed his appeals.

(from BBC)

Turkey and Syria have agreed to bury their differences, ending decades of frosty relations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is visiting Turkey, said the two countries would work together for peace and stability in the Middle East.

Mr Assad's visit is the first to Turkey by a Syrian head of state.

After a meeting with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, he said the two countries shared concerns about the territorial integrity of Iraq.

Meanwhile Turkey, with its strong ties to Israel, is reported to be offering to help Syria make progress with its recent overtures towards the Jewish state.

Both leaders are making regional stability a priority

The first is from a Turkish news agency; the second from the US firm, Reuters; the third from the UK edition of BBC online.  Notice that the Turkish writer develops the story as a description of the visit.  The US perspective is quite different; it is a description of what was said during the meeting.  The UK perspective also is to focus on the content of the meeting. Although the US and UK articles describe the event from the same perspective, they emphasize different topics.  The US version mentions, in the first sentence "Bashar al-Assad defended his right to acquire them [WMD] against Israeli aggression."  In contrast, the UK article states in the first sentence " the two countries would work together for peace and stability." The UK article includes a photo, with the caption "Both leaders are making regional stability a priority."  This adds further emphasis to the topic of reconciliation.  The Turkish article similarly emphasizes reconciliation, by mentioning in the second sentence ways to improve economic ties and security cooperation.
This compare-and-contrast exercise reveals two things:  the US and the UK focus on the content of the visit, without describing the visit itself, thus de-emphasizing the ceremonial and social significance of the event.  The Turkish view acknowledges the simple truth, that if one person takes the time to go over and talk to another, that is important in and of itself.  Yes, the content has meaning, but so does the process.  The US version not only ignores the social aspect of the event, it emphasizes an item that really is a side issue, not directly relevant to the purpose of the meeting.  It is as though what is important to a US audience is the fact that Syria might not disarm.  Why make an issue of the one divisive topic, when it is clear that the main reason for the event is reconciliation?  Is it that featuring conflict is the only way to sell news content in the US? Do you suppose readers in non-US countries might notice, that articles from the US seem to focus on conflict rather than reconciliation? If so, how does this affect the perception of the US by persons overseas?