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Are the media missing yet another genocide?

 
 
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 12:48 pm
By CARROLL BOGERT

The international media don't send reporters to cover genocides, it seems. They cover genocide anniversaries.

We've just finished a spate of front-page stories, television docu-histories and somber panel discussions on "Why the Media Missed the Story" in Rwanda, pegged to the 10th anniversary of one of the most shocking tragedies of last century, or any century. More than 500,000 people were killed in a small African country in only 100 days, and the world turned away.

But even as the ink was drying on the latest round of mea culpas, another colossal disaster in Africa was already going unreported.

Nearly a million people have been displaced from their homes in western Sudan; many have fled into neighboring Chad. They say militias working with the Sudanese government have been attacking villages, ransacking and torching homes, killing and raping civilians. These armed forces are supposedly cracking down on rebel groups based in the Darfur region, but in fact they are targeting the population.

The rainy season comes to western Sudan in May. If farmers don't get back to their villages by then, the crops will not get planted this year -- and that could mean mass starvation as well. But no one will go back as long as the janjaweed (literally, "armed horsemen") militias remain in the area.

So where are the journalists?

At the annual meeting of the Overseas Press Club recently, I took a random and admittedly unscientific survey of foreign editors.

"Do you have anyone in Darfur?" I asked.

"We did have someone there!" said one editor brightly. "But she's been covering all of Africa." He changed the subject to authoritarian trends in Vladimir V. Putin's Russia.

"We're covering the Washington angle this week," said another, referring to the Bush administration's conundrum of how to wrap up a peace agreement between the government of Sudan and rebels in the southern part of the country -- just as Khartoum is attacking another set of ethnic groups in the west.

"I think we have a stringer now in Chad," offered a third.

If few editors could find Rwanda on a map 10 years ago, fewer still have found Darfur today.

Of course, Khartoum isn't giving visas to camera-wielding international TV crews. But although Darfur is hard to get to, it isn't impossible. A Human Rights Watch researcher just spent three weeks sneaking back and forth to Sudan from Chad, and she brought back with her solid evidence of what's happening on the ground.

For Human Rights Watch to adequately cover the tragedy in Darfur, we have to take people away from their regular jobs -- following the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda, the worsening civil war in Ivory Coast and other global tragedies. But if we can do it, with the scarce resources of a nonprofit, then why not The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times?

Part of the answer is Iraq. The Chicago Tribune's Cairo bureau chief, for instance, who could be covering north Africa, just got bundled off for another tour of Baghdad. The war is a story that involves Americans -- our men and women in uniform -- and Americans are understandably preoccupied with it. (Ten years ago, the media were transfixed by the O.J. Simpson trial -- so maybe you can call this progress.) Covering the war in Iraq has depleted foreign news budgets, and sending reporters into Sudan is not cheap.

Reporters have begun trickling to the scene. The Los Angeles Times has a correspondent en route to Darfur, as does The New York Times. But the fact is, with or without a war in Iraq, American journalists are generally slower to cover mass death if the victims are not white. The Rwandan genocide is a case in point.

The tragedy in Darfur may not cross the genocide threshold, but should that really make a difference? Thousands of civilians have been killed, and the pattern and intent behind these massive crimes must be carefully mapped and loudly broadcast around the world if there is to be any hope of stopping them.

We need more information and more firsthand reporting. We need reporters at the scene, making this disaster real to their audience by telling the stories of individual victims.

It's the media's job to inform us. They should do it, and quickly -- because 10 years from now there won't be any excuse for another round of hand-wringing.

Bogert is associate director of Human Rights Watch.

Link



A million people displaced and thousands killed. But it can't be shown to be the USA's fault, so it must not be real news.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 9,313 • Replies: 158
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 12:51 pm
The Sudan doesn't have the world's second largest proven oil reserves, so it must not be real to the Shrub.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 12:57 pm
Depends where you look, Tarantulas. The Sudan tragedy was on the front page of yesterday's NY Times. It was also reported extensively on BBC World News Tonight, which I heard on the radio last night...
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Fedral
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:27 pm
Hundreds of thousands killed in Sudan and all the world can ask is ...

Can you believe how poorly those Iraqi prisoners were treated.

The United Nations re-elects SUDAN to the U.N Human Rights commission ...

And people wonder why the United States feels that the U.N lacks credibility.


CNN

Quote:
Last year, the United States walked out of the U.N. Economic and Social Council to protest Cuba's re-election to the Human Rights Commission, which it called "an outrage." Russia, Saudi Arabia and several African countries with poor human rights records also won seats and Libya chaired the commission.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:29 pm
I see--so you are suggesting, therefore, Fed, that the treatment of the Iraqi prisoners was acceptable on the basis of "oh yeah, well look what they're doin' over there ! ! !"

Ah, playground rhetoric--the bread and meat of political strife these days . . .
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Fedral
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:31 pm
Setanta wrote:
I see--so you are suggesting, therefore, Fed, that the treatment of the Iraqi prisoners was acceptable on the basis of "oh yeah, well look what they're doin' over there ! ! !"

Ah, playground rhetoric--the bread and meat of political strife these days . . .


No, I am pointing out how the press seems to be preoccupied on reporting minor incidents (in comparison) as long as the United States or the U.K. are involved and ignores the plight of people DYING by the THOUSANDS.
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Rick d Israeli
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:34 pm
Good post Tarantulas.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:37 pm
Well, Boss, people have DIED by the THOUSANDS in Iraq since they received the blessings of American style regime change. Your assumption that the media ignore the Sudan is absurd--it gets press all the time, but Limbaugh and O'Reilly don't comment on it, so perhaps it never rises to your news horizon. The civil war there is a generation old, and nothing has ever been done, and nothing is likely to be done, because it won't be perceived to be in anyone's strategic interest.

It is completely appropriate to report the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, because it is a loathesome perversion of all that the United States professes to believe in. Additionally, we have an army in Iraq, and don't have one in the Sudan. It's simple journalistic logic that what happens in Iraq receives more coverage in the English-speaking world than what happens in the Sudan.

Finally, you sound like you've got a chip on your shoulder about the reporting of the abuse of prisoners in Iraq. I suppose you think its no big deal, that it doesn't deserve the coverage it's getting? I personally am appalled and ashamed, and think it deserves front-page coverage, and a hell of a lot more scrutiny than it is currently getting.
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Rick d Israeli
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:43 pm
Quote:
It's simple journalistic logic that what happens in Iraq receives more coverage in the English-speaking world than what happens in the Sudan.


Isn't that actually the problem with Western media nowadays? Just this day, one of our ministers presented a report where it criticized the media for being so darn focused on bringing news that excites, and not on bringing news that can be sometimes very important, although it is not exciting (enough).

This world is ruled by the media, or better said: personal views of the journalists behind it. If they don't care about this topic, the public CAN NOT care about this topic.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:48 pm
Hmmm...Sounds like this is one of those "don't confuse me with the facts" threads. I pointed out earlier in the thread that the Sudan story has been reported. Yet the argument continues to rage as though it has not been.

Very well then. Bash on regardless!
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Fedral
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:49 pm
I sit for an hour every morning before work eating breakfast and answering my personal e-mail while watching CNN.

Over the last few weeks, I have seen the prisoner abuse story (as disgusting and intolerable set of acts as I have seen) and yet, I have seen precisely ONE story on Sudan, a couple of weeks ago, on CNN and nothing since.

There are DEGREES of improper conduct.

Comparing what happened to the prisoners or the few thousands of civilians killed in Iraq to the deaths of over 500,000[/u] people in Sudan is ridiculous.

You are comparing people that are being killed accidentally during combat operations with the deliberate and systematic killing of certain peoples.

The two can't be compared.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:50 pm
I would agree with that Rick, but you have the conundrum of what sells newspapers. It is a saying in the newspaper business in the United States that dog bites man is not news, man bites dog is news. What is currently happening in the Sudan has been going on for more than 20 years, governments in the west have demonstrated a willingness to turn a blind eye to the situation--so those who make decisions in news rooms (whether of a newspaper, or the radio or television news) are just not going to get interested. Their bottom line is attracting an audience, so that they can make the most money selling time to advertisers.

In a perfect world, this would not be true. In a perfect world, the industrialized nations would never allow this sort of thing to go on. Not only is the warfare and wholesale slaughter of people in the Sudan a daily reality, so is the slave trade and the persecution of christians. But so long as there are no "strategic interests" involved, the west won't do anything, and so long as the governments are not interested, neither is it likely that the news media outlets will be. Newspapers will continue to report on it, as with the New York Times, but it simply won't be "big news" to the television news outlets.
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Rick d Israeli
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:52 pm
D'artagnan: there's a difference between "reporting" and "bringing under attention".
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Lightwizard
 
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Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:53 pm
The newsapapers utilize their personnel much like the politicians and I don't see any troops being dispatched to the Sudan.
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Rick d Israeli
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 01:54 pm
Setanta: I do not think that the Western media only follows the role of their governments in a conflict in Sudan. More than once - actually, a lot times - it was actually the media who brought something under the attention of their government(s). It can also go the other way around in my opinion.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 02:05 pm
I was mostly referring to broadcast news, Rick. I think you'll find that radio and television news by and large (although not exclusively) feed the public the news which they think will matter to them, and so their focus tends in the same directions as that of government.

The print media remain an area in which "real" news gets published, but their impact is much diminished in the last fifty years.
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Tarantulas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 02:48 pm
Setanta wrote:
The Sudan doesn't have the world's second largest proven oil reserves, so it must not be real to the Shrub.

Non sequitur.

The story is about the news media.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 02:52 pm
Fedral wrote:
The United Nations re-elects SUDAN to the U.N Human Rights commission ...

And people wonder why the United States feels that the U.N lacks credibility.



No - at least very incorrect:

The Commission on Human Rights, a functional commission of ECOSOC [= Economic and Social Council, an Geneva based UN organ (the two others UN organs dealing with Human Rights are Third Committee of the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights] was established by an ECOSOC resolution in February 1946. Member states are elected by ECOSOC based on an equitable geographic distribution. On its establishment, the Commission had only 18 member states and the number increased to 43 in 1979. Since the 48th session of the Commission in 1992, the membership has reached 53 (12 from Asia, 15 from Africa, 11 from Latin America and the Caribbean area, 5 from Eastern Europe, and 10 from Western Europe and other regions). Each member state serves a three-year term.
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Tarantulas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 03:04 pm
May 04, 2004

U.N. Votes to Keep Sudan on Commission
By EDITH M. LEDERER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United States walked out of a U.N. meeting Tuesday to protest its decision minutes later to give Sudan a third term on the Human Rights Commission, the world body's human rights watchdog.

U.S. Ambassador Sichan Siv called the vote an "absurdity" and accused Sudan of massive human rights violations and "ethnic cleansing" in the western Darfur region before getting up from his chair and walking out of the Economic and Social Council chamber.

As he was leaving, Sudan's deputy U.N. ambassador Omar Bashir Manis launched into a heated response, accusing American forces of engaging in degrading treatment of Iraqi prisoners and committing "atrocities" against innocent Iraqi civilians.

But the United States' seat in the chamber was empty, and no American diplomat was there to hear it.

Finland's U.N. Ambassador Marjatta Rasi, the president of the 53-nation Economic and Social Council, then noted that the slate of candidates from Africa was uncontested, and it was approved by consensus as she banged her gavel.

Under U.N. rules, regional groups decide which countries are nominated to fill seats on U.N. bodies.

The African group waited until late last week to present its list of candidates for four seats. It presented four names, guaranteeing election for Kenya, Sudan, Guinea and Togo.

The United States scrambled to get another African nation to apply in an effort to make it a contested race and unseat Sudan. But with so little time it was unsuccessful, U.N. diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Siv, the U.S. ambassador to the economic council, said the United States was "perplexed and dismayed" by the African group's decision to nominate Sudan, a country that he said "massacres its own African citizens."

He noted that at last month's Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva, members expressed concern about Darfur even though they blocked a stronger U.S. resolution that would have condemned the Khartoum government.

"The least we should be able to do is to not elect a country to the global body charged specifically with protecting human rights, at the precise time when tens of thousands of its citizens are being murdred or left to die of starvation," Siv said.

"Consider the ramifications of standing by and allowing the commission to become a safe-haven for the world's worst human rights violators, especially one engaged in `ethnic cleansing'," he said.

Manis countered that Sudan has acknowledged the humanitarian problem in Darfur, noting the government's call for international help and the recent visit by two U.N. teams.

"It is yet very ironic that the United States delegation, while shedding crocodile tears over the situation in Darfur ... is turning a blind a eye to the atrocities committed by the American forces against the innoncent civilian population in Iraq, including women and children," he said.

Manis also cited "the brutal attacks against innocent civilians in Falluja where for the first time in our lives we saw live reporting of mass graves - women, children and elderly and other innocent civilians buried in a football stadium" and the "infamous and degrading treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison."

So Sudan's seat on the Human Rights Commission "is not at all different" from the U.S. presence, Manis said.

Sudan was one of 14 new members elected to the 53-member commission by the economic council.

Three other African countries - Kenya, Guinea and Togo - were also elected by consensus to represent Africa. Armenia and Romania representing Eastern Europe and Ecuador and Mexico representing Latin America also faced no opposition.

In the contested race among Western nations, Canada, Finland and France won seats, defeating Spain. And in the contested Asian race, Malaysia, Pakistan and South Korea defeated Vietnam.

A coalition of 10 organizations concerned with human rights issues complained Monday that too few democracies are being nominated for seats on the commission.

It said among the four African countries, only Kenya was a democracy and both Pakistan and Vietnam had serious human rights problems.

Last year, the United States also walked out to protest Cuba's re-election to the Human Rights Commission, which it called "an outrage." Russia, Saudi Arabia and several African countries with poor human rights records also won seats, and Libya chaired the commission in 2003.

Link
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Dartagnan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 03:13 pm
Not sure how this supports your point, Tarantulas. Seems to me this reflects how the US is isolating itself in the diplomatic community. Even when we're on the right side, we can't find support. Sad...
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