Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Will the media slumber on?

In the LA Times, Carroll Bogert of Human Rights Watch prods the media to start paying attention to genocide in Africa as it's happening, not ten years after the fact:

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 uncovered.

Nearly a million people have been displaced from their homes in western Sudan; many have fled into neighboring Chad. They report that 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?
The woeful reporting of just about anything going on in Africa is one of the most shocking deficiencies within the media. My own ignorance of events there is something that deeply perturbs me and -- while this sounds somewhat arrogant -- I try to pay close attention to what's going on in the media. I can only imagine the ignorance of those countless numbers of people who either don't have the time to engage news reports or don't think it's worth their time.