2016: Volume 9, Issue 2, pp. 65-81

Representing, Narrating, and Translating the Syrian Humanitarian Disaster
in The Guardian and The New York Times

Fadi Jaber


Many scholars have attempted to understand certain aspects of translation and its fundamental role in constituting reality and representing the Other during media news coverage of international events. However, translation is often an invisible activity during such coverage. The relationship between translation and representation of the Other in the global media and news texts raises ethical questions about translation and textual manipulation. This dilemma is reinforced by the media’s selection of specific quotations and narratives for translating and publishing. It also imposes the question of media responsibility and translators’ ethics towards representing the Other, especially when the media deal with international events. The majority of media codes of ethics do not mention translation as a fundamental factor in ensuring and maintaining news accuracy and objectivity as well as fair representation of the Other. This paper scrutinizes media responsibility and translation ethics based on The Guardian and The New York Times’ representation of the Syrian humanitarian disaster (SHD) as embedded in the translated quotations and narratives told by Syrian citizen journalists (residents, refugees, protesters, eyewitnesses, and activists). To do so, it draws on Mona Baker’s narrative theory, on Stuart Hall and Edward Said’s theory of representation, and on media responsibility and translation ethics theoretical approaches. Accordingly, the corpus consists of 326 news texts distributed as follows: 177 news texts from The Guardian and 149 news texts from The New York Times. This represents a three-year timeframe of the SHD, from March 2011 to February 2014. The findings provide further understanding of the media’s responsibility in representing the events of the Other and translation ethical practices in the text.


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