Secondly, the Western mainstream media shows a clear bias towards the national interests of their respective states in that they fail to highlight the abuse of NATO’s United Nations Security Council mandate given to NATO. The mandate granted to NATO to intervene in Libya was based on the modern doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) which under international law allows intrusion, by the international community under UN authority, of another sovereign state’s sovereignty to protect civilian lives from war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity in the event that the state being intruded against is unable or unwilling to protect the lives of their own people from such international crimes. NATO’s bombing quickly turned from simply protecting the lives of innocent civilians from atrocities by their own government to a military intervention to achieve regime change by ousting Gaddafi which sparked intense debate about the relationship between R2P and “regime change” in the Security Council. Russia and China approved the resolution to trigger the R2P mission in Libya, and hence did not exercise their veto powers in the Security Council, felt betrayed by NATO’s deviation from the original intended mission sanctioned by the Security Council. This later became a problem when United Nations’ R2P missions in the Syria civil war, which potentially could save many innocent civilian lives, could not be triggered due to Russian and Chinese oppositions in the Security Council meaning no resolution could be passed to authorise the international community to intervene in Syria. The Russians and the Chinese feared another R2P mission in Syria could again be abused by the West by conducting another regime change mission to oust Assad in Syria to attempt to spread Western liberal democratic ideals in the middle-east as the neo-conservative Bush government tried to do in Iraq. The fact that the West acted beyond their UN mandate in Libya could rarely be found, if any could be found at all, in the Western mainstream media but is common public knowledge in scholarly work. The abuse of power of the R2P mission in Libya can be said to constitute a breach of international law.
In conclusion we can see that when we or our allies breach international law it is not reported, or if it is, the report is minimal with a spin towards justification or even exoneration. However when our foreign adversaries commit the breach of international law our media will jump at every opportunity to highlight this fact. This selective reporting, whether due to conscious or unconscious bias, dominate the Western mainstream media meaning if people want an alternative perspective or the other side’s view of the story in international conflicts they would have to go to non-mainstream media sources. What is reported in the mainstream media shapes popular opinions, beliefs and values in the popular and political culture in this post-modern age of instant communications and 24/7 news cycle. In Western liberal democracies, where freedom of speech and freedom of the press are bedrocks of the political and social system, international law and international relations are represented with an inherent pro-Western selective subtle bias. Arguably the mainstream media operates as a tool of promoting the realist policies of self-interest of Western governments to preserve and maximise their power and influence on the global stage as an extension of the realist’s theory of how and why nations behave in international relations. It is the political elite that defines the national interest and instill in the public’s mind what is being done in their name in promoting the national interest so it is the responsibility of a free independent press in a democratic state to participate in negotiating and debating the meaning of elastic political objectives, such as ‘international security’ and ‘national interest’, rather than merely handing down ready-made politically expedient definitions of them as constructed by the political elite without question.