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Patents, Pills, and the Press

The Rise and Fall of the Global HIV/AIDS Medicines Crisis in the News


Thomas Owen

HIV/AIDS is a global health crisis of unprecedented proportions. Afflicting millions worldwide, its social, political, economic, and ethical dimensions have rendered explicit the vast inequalities of our «negatively globalized planet». Since the late 1990s, a major feature of the crisis has been the dispute over intellectual property protection and medicines access.
In this book, Thomas Owen examines the mediatization of this dispute. Weaving together contemporary media theory and interdisciplinary research with computer-assisted news analysis and interviews with journalists and civil society campaigners, the book illuminates the intersecting constitutive relationships between global crises, global governance, and global media. In a context of changing media technologies, logics, and practices, this book observes where the mediatized conflict surrounding global medicines access has at times consolidated elite political economic power, and at other times provided civil society campaigners their greatest opportunities for global social change.
With an interdisciplinary approach, this book is suitable for courses on global media communication and global journalism, as well as advanced undergraduate and postgraduate courses in public health communication, political communication, social movement studies, and international relations.
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Chapter 4. Contested Crisis Definitions: Global vs. National


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Global vs. National

Indeed, the HIV epidemic and the responses it generated have been crucial forces in “inventing” the new “global health.”

—(Brandt, 2013, p. 2149)


Global crises are embedded within interconnected networks of global governance. Few crises, however, illustrate the interconnected governance dynamic as clearly as the HIV/AIDS medicines access and patent protection one. Indeed, for some commentators, the HIV/AIDS medicines crisis “invented” global public health, establishing the multi-sector co-operative global governance blueprint for future health crises to follow (Brandt, 2013, p. 2149; McInnes et al., 2012). Mainstream news media, however, are long recognised for organising social and political phenomena along strict national/international binaries (Berglez, 2008, 2013). Given this tendency, how then may media coverage adequately represent the inherently de-territorialised and globally integrated processes at the heart of the HIV/AIDS medicines access and patent protection dispute?

Where the previous chapter examined competition between “patent” and “poverty” definitions of the medicines crisis, this chapter examines tensions ← 83 | 84 → between two further styles of crisis definition: that is, between global and nation-centric perspectives. In particular, the chapter addresses this tension using Berglez’s (2008, 2013) theoretical framework of ‘global journalism’. For Berglez, ‘global journalism’ is an epistemological style of news representation, one that emphasises the globally interconnected nature of social, political, and environmental phenomena. Journalism with a “national outlook,” on the other hand, segregates globalised phenomena into specific categories revolving...

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