Friday, January 19, 2007

No News is Bad News

Last year millions of people in many countries lost their lives as a result of wars, violence, disease, and hunger, yet the major television networks did not tell their stories to the public .

In its annual report for 2006, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders said the staggering human toll taken by tuberculosis (TB) and malnutrition as well as the devastation caused by wars in the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of Congo were almost completely ignored by the leading television networks and it found very little or no coverage by the top three networks of the human suffering caused by ongoing armed conflicts in Haiti, Somalia, Colombia, and central India.

"Haiti, for example, is just 50 miles from the United States [but]...relentless violence in its volatile capital Port-au-Prince received only half a minute of network coverage in an entire year." said Nicolas de Torrente, executive director of MSF's U.S. chapter.

The ten countries and issues highlighted by MSF accounted for just 7.2 of the 14,512 minutes the three major television networks [ABC, CBS, and NBC] devoted to their nightly newscasts in 2006, reported The Tyndall Report, an online media tracking journal. The networks did report on malnutrition, TB, and Chechnya, "but only very briefly in other stories." They also completely ignored five of countries mentioned in the MSF list of underreported stories.

Worldwide, around 2 million deaths are believed to be caused by TB every year. The TB situation has become "frightening" and that it became "even worse" in 2006 with the detection of a strain that is resistant to both first-line antibiotics and to two classes of second-line drugs.

In addition to TB, each year millions of children in poor countries die due to severe lack of food. MSF said the use of therapeutic foods, like the milk-and-peanut-butter paste Plumpy'nut , could save many lives, but such treatment is not being widely used. In the past two years, with this method MSF has treated more than 150,000 children in Niger.

Contrary to the common saying , no news is not good news .

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