Humphrey Fellows discuss media portrayal of national stereotypes during lecture series

(Samantha Tomasch/DD)
Ivana Braga, a Humphrey Fellow from Brazil, spoke Wednesday about how media around the world portrays national stereotypes. The lecture was part of the Cronkite Global Conversations series. (Samantha Tomasch/DD)

Three of the Humphrey Fellows spoke Wednesday afternoon about how media in their home countries and around the world portrays the stereotypes of their nations at the Cronkite Global Conversations lecture series.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship is a 40-year-old national program funded by the US Department of State that brings mid-career professionals to America to study and learn about leadership. More than 4,000 people from 100 countries typically apply, but only 200 are accepted, said Bill Silcock, director of the Cronkite Global Initiatives program. ASU has had a program for four years.

Thursday’s lecture was the third of four Cronkite Global Conversations, which started in February. The series focuses on media overseas.

Ivana Braga from Brazil spoke first about racism in her home country. Braga got into a journalism program with only 24 seats available. She said she was the only black person in her program and was nicknamed “black speckle.”

Braga said this opened her eyes to the problems people of African descent face. In 2011, 15,000 Brazilians were murdered, 72 percent of whom were black, she said.

She said people need to be active in the political process and vote for representation in order to combat the problem. She said she hoped Afro-Brazilians won’t have to face the problems she did.

“It is a challenge for people who come from the low class, usually blacks,” Braga said. “You don’t have the representatives, you don’t even have the same proposal now to participate in the elections.”

Hina Ali from Pakistan followed with a talk about avoiding stereotypes and her experience living with the war on terror back home. A stereotype is that terrorists only attack foreign counties, but she said they actually attack their own. Pakistan is the second country most affected by terrorism, she said.

“There is not an aspect of life that has not been attacked or affected (by the attacks),” Ali said.

But that’s all foreign media covers and it creates a stereotype that everyone is a crazy extremist, she said.

“You see Pakistan as a problem instead of a society,” Ali said.

Ali said Pakistan needs to rebrand itself to show its positive aspects. India, for example, shows its culture and history through Bollywood. She said politicians have failed on this front.

Instead of displaying a country always in chaos, Ali said she wants the media to focus on the evolution its people have gone through. She said the people of Pakistan live normal lives.

More than 60 percent of Indians voted in the last elections, she said. They are proud to show that they voted and post pictures on social media. Ali said this is a sign that the people want change.

Fernando Aguilar spoke last about the history of El Salvador. He discussed the idea of massacres and how the government uses them to send a message of terror, such as the 1932 peasant massacre led by President Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez where over 40,000 people were killed. And in 1981, when another massacre in the town of El Mozote killed 1,000 people, nearly half of whom were children.

Aguilar said the media should be used to teach what really happened. Surveys found that only 58.5 percent of people polled knew the true story behind the massacres, he said. He said some newspapers contribute to a societal view that indigenous people are crazy and uneducated.

After the lecture, Silcock talked about how much he has learned from the fellows.

He said he learned that America doesn’t have a monopoly on the truth or know the best way to cover stories. The fellows have taught him about the conflicts other cultures face and how they handle them.

“I learn that we are more alike than different,” Silcock said. “It’s amazing to be able to walk out the door of my office and talk to two people from Africa and two women from Pakistan, to talk about global politics or the latest iTunes craze or Facebook posting. It’s social, friendship, loyalty and it’s long-lasting.”

There will be another lecture March 19 where two fellows will discuss important issues in their country.

Correction: March 10, 2014:

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that individual states funded the Humphrey Fellows. The program is funded by the US Department of State.

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