Skip to content

One school girl´s bravery in the centre of an International Network

by on November 30, 2013

United Nations, New York, 12 July 2013 – Malala Yousafzai gives her first high-level public appearance and statement on the importance of education (UN:YouTube 2013).

Without the media few people in the world would probably know about Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani school girl who is working for females right to education. In 2012 she was shot in the head by Taliban forces in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, but she survived. Her story was spread around the world and she received a huge response. Malala has made a speech in the UN, met Queen Elisabeth of England, won international prizes and been interviewed by various famous program leaders.

The question is, how and why did this individual attract this large global attention and is there any theory for this?

Fig 1: An AK-47 assault rifle, used by the Taliban.

A worthy victim

One possible reason for the large attention is that Malala is what Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman would call a “worthy” victim and a great story that also fits the media propaganda model (Chomsky and Herman 2002: xii,xiii). The case is not only about a brave individual, it is also a deep political question of Human Rights. Human Rights is a key component within the UN, and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is calling for a worldwide protection and a responsibility to support them (UN 2010). Malala, went against the Taliban (an extremist movement that is well known globally especially after 9/11 2001), who are shutting down and blowing up girl´s schools in the Swat Valley and therefore they tried to kill her (and she is still being threaten). Malala is a symbol of the good against the evil and the Pakistani President Zardari put words on it during an event at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, when he said “ We are facing two forces in the country. Malala represents the forces of peace and we are fighting with the forces of darkness, hatred and violence”. (UNESCO 2013, Akhtar 2008:69-70) She is a “worthy” victim in the sense that her cause is connected to the international and political “correct” side (UN) that attracts both top state leaders and the public audience (and therefore the media), sharing the UN Human Rights values (at least theoretically) (CNN:YouTube 2012, Al Jazeera English:YouTube 2012, Chomsky and Herman 2002:37).

Fig 2: Girls reading while standing in the ruins of their school.

The heroine, the public audience and the two theories

According to Elihu Katz and the Uses and Gratification theory, but also Lisa Watson and Mark T. Spence and the Integrative Cognitive Appraisal Theory, the public is not just passive, but instead individuals who can choose what media and what news they find attractive (often based on their emotions) (McQuail 2010:94-95, Spence and Watson 2007:487-488, 503-504). Since the case of Malala is a real, classic story of a heroine (Human Rights Defender) against the evil forces (the Taliban), she creates public interest and attention (Fazl-E-Haider 2013:73). Malala can express herself very well in English, (The Daily Show:YouTube 2013, The Telegraph:YouTube 2013) which is an international language, and the message is spread by her own voice and that catches the audience and gives a larger credibility than a simple report by an average reporter would gain (Taylor 2002:194). She is winning “hearts and minds” by her way of presenting the cause, and instead of being shown as a helpless victim, like starving children (where no hope can be seen), she gain support as an active young heroine, a role model (like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King) and a hope for real change (Fazl-E-Haider  2013:73)

Fig 3: The Integrative Cognitive Appraisal Theory 

 The media economy and a good media case

Peter Golding and Graham Murdock highlight that greater concentration of media ownership, monopoly and corporate conglomeration (Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner, Time Warner ect.) has increased and critical voices have been raised (like Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman) claiming the concentration creates negative effects regarding democracy and diversity (McChesney 2008:408-409, Wheeler 1997:241, 248). However, it is possible to argue that the monopoly and profit-making greed has been quite successful tools in rapidly spreading and encouraging a very fundamental, democratic stand point (Malala), and in fact greed has been fuelling a good cause. Malala is a great case for the media, because of public and political interests and the news have been produced in various formats like for example documentaries, talk-shows, live events, a book (“I Am Malala”), articles and radio programs (NRK/SVT Skavlan, YouTube 2013). Media channels earn money by giving her attention and that has caused a widespread international media interest.

Fig 4: Benjamins-100-dollar-bills.

Social networks and the New Media

The fight for females education is not a new subject, and large global, bottom-up social networks of various NGOs like for example the Young Women´s Christian Association (WorldYMCA 2013) do not only promote Malala and her message they also work for changes regarding this issue within states all around the world. One example of this is the lobbying at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, where they come together and push politicians to pass resolutions (UN Women 2013). These networks can easily operate and spread messages because of the internet and New Media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. This means that not only media conglomerates structures are promoting the case of Malala because of the interest of the public or politicians, but also NGOs within the Human Rights field, have been able to bring her forward and play a  role in spreading information, PR and news globally, by operating together in international networks, thanks to cheap and advanced technology. Malala´s case has not only put light on her, but also on Human Rights and the work of the NGOs, which indirectly get attention and support that also help them regarding financial issues, to be able to continue their work.

Fig 5: Map of the world demonstrating global network.

An international network structure, focusing on one individual

The interaction between those various actors (politicians, media, public audience and NGOs), benefiting on the case (Malala) and each others interests, shapes an advanced, dominant, network that also boosts Malala and her cause. The propaganda model fit partly into this network (the linkages between media, profit-making, politicians and political interests), but it doesn’t embrace the New Media and actors like the audience (as non-passive) and NGOs. I would suggest that there is a need of a network theory, most likely a Core Periphery Cluster network model, (Kadushin  2004:40-42) that embraces the idea that multiple strings of interaction between these actors is shaping a dominant international view of what cases that are of importance (which most of the actors can benefit from regardless if it is money-profiting, political interest, entertainment or role model support). This network frames the agenda setting or priority of a subject, for most involved actors (more or less) and in the centre of this network is the case of one brave school girl, Malala Yousafzai.

“Class Dismissed” (2009) is a documentary by Adam B. Ellick, about Malala´s family´s life before she was shot 2012. WARNING: The film contains disturbing sequences like beheadings and executions.



Fig 1: Chivers, C.J (2010) evidence locker – afghanistan. New York Times/AtWar (online)
Available at:
Accessed: 24 November 2013

Fig 2: Afridi,Said Nazir (–) Girls reading in the ruins. EPA, Wall St. Journal/What no one told you about Pakistan blog (Online)
Available at:
Accessed: 25 November 2013

Figure 3: Emerald (2013) Causes and consequences of emotions on consumer behaviour: A review and integrative cognitive appraisal theory (Online)
Availabe at:
Accessed: 25 November 2013

Fig 4: Mashable (–) Benjamins-100-dollar-bills (Online)
Available at:
Accessed: 24 November 2013

Fig 5: Foundation Fighting Blindness (–) Map of the world demonstrating global network (Online)
Available at:
Accessed: 25 November 2013


Chomsky, Noam, Herman, Edward S. (2002) The political economy of the mass media.  New York: Pantheon Books

McChesney, Robert W (2008) The Political Economy of Media: enduring issues, emerging dilemmas. New York:Monthly Review Press

McQuail, Denis (ed.) (2010) McQuail´s Mass Communication Theory. Great Britain: SAGE Publications

Taylor, Philip M (2002) Global Communications, International Affairs and the Media since 1945. Great Britain: Routledge

Wheeler, Mark (1997) Politics and the Mass Media. United Kingdom, United States: Blackwell Publishers

Academic Journals

Akhtar, Nasreen (2008) Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Taliban.

EBSCOHOST, International Journal on World Peace 70 Vol. XXVNO. 4 December2008

Available at:

Accessed: 13 November 2013

Fazl-E-Haider, Syed (2013) Malala versus Extremism.

Harvard International Review. Spring2013, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p73-76. 4p.

Available at:

Accessed: 24 November 2013

Kadushin, Charles (2004) Introduction to Social Network Theory draft chapter 2

Available at:

Accessed: 17 November 2013

Spence, Mark, Watson, Lisa (2007) Causes and consequences of emotions on consumer behaviour: A review and integrative cognitive appraisal theory

Emerald, European Journal of Marketing Volume: 41 Issue: 5/7 2007

Available at:

Accessed: 24 November 2013


Malala Yousafzai leaves Jon Stewart speechless (2013) The Daily Show, YouTube

Available at:

Accessed: 14 November 2013

Malala tells UN she will not be silenced by Taliban attack (2013) The Telegraph, Youtube, Available at:

Accessed: 17 November 2013

Malala Yousafzai Shot And Wounded By Taliban Gunmen (2012) CNN, YouTube

Available at:

Accessed: 17 November 2013

Malala Yousafzai and her father (2013) NRK/SVT Skavlan, YouTube

Available at:

Accessed: 15 November 2013

Malala Yousafzai addresses United Nations Youth Assembly (2013)

United Nations: YouTube

Available at:

Accessed: 24 November 2013

Pakistan outrage over attack on Malala (2012) Al Jazeera English, YouTube

Available at:

Accessed: 21 November 2013


UN Women (2013) Non-governmental Organizations

Available at:

Accessed: 15 November 2013

UN (2010) Defending the Defenders

Available at:

Accessed: 15 November 2013

UNESCO (2013) UNESCO and Pakistan launch Malala Fund for Girls’ Education

Available at:

Accessed: 17 November 2013

World YWCA (2013) Malala Day – Every Girl has the Right to Education

Available at: Accessed: 13 November 2013

Accessed: 24 November 2013


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: