Vantage Point: The Lockerbie Media Circus

by Caela

In 1988, an American passenger jet Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. This resulted with the death of 270 people, including 189 Americans. Two decades later, this story once again dominates the headline as Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill last week ordered the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi (the only one convicted on the case) on “compassionate” grounds, saying that he was dying of prostate cancer and had just three months to live.

In an introductory video this week, Al Jazeera tried to show how “media tend to report stories from their own country’s perspective and three countries have direct stakes in this one. The US, where most of the 259 passengers were from; the UK where the plane crashed and Libya, which gave Al-Megrahi a hero’s welcome on his return.” Where ironically, in the process, showed their own bias as well.

The US Media, both liberal and conservative, were shocked and outraged by the release showing interviews of those who lost relatives in the Lockerbie bombing still showing outrage two decades after the incident.

The British press on the other hand went from mixed compassion and disapproval to “investigations” to allegations of deals between the British Government and Libyan Government.

The Libyan coverage is sentimental and portrayed Al-Megrahi as a hero, broadcasting Libya’s heroes welcome to Al-Megrahi to the shock and repulsion of the rest of the world.

“Different countries, different perspectives and, in the way that news was reported, different stories. Lockerbie and the case of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi is a text book example of how one man’s terrorist can be another man’s hero. Sometimes it just depends on what channel you watches.”

In the end, everyone forgot to ask the important questions. What happened two decades ago? Why? What happened to the trial? Why is he received as such by the Libyans? What is so important about Al-Megrahi and the Lockerbie case that the US made it a point to ask the British government years ago to assure that Al-Megrahi will never be released and that the Libyan government would always bring him up at negotiation tables with the British government?

Exit Question: Can everything simply have been lost in translation?

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