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Agence France Presse

US Media Ignoring Top Humanitarian Stories: Aid Group


NEW YORK - While US headlines in 2007 were dominated by celebrity gossip, next year's US presidential election and Iraq, humanitarian stories went largely unreported, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.1221 09

The aid organization, also known as Doctors Without Borders, identified violence, forced displacement and disease in the Central African Republic, Somalia and Sri Lanka among the top 10 underreported stories of 2007.

The list, released on Thursday, also highlighted what it described as the forgotten crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Chechnya.

"Certainly, many members of the press go to great lengths to report on what is taking place in conflict zones around the world," said Nicolas de Torrente, the aid organization's executive director in the United States.

"But millions of people trapped in war, forced from their homes and lacking the most basic medical care do not receive attention commensurate with their plight," he said in the report.

The group began producing its top 10 list in 1998 in response to the poor US media coverage of a devastating famine in southern Sudan.

In its 10th list, it said the ongoing toll of tuberculosis and childhood malnutrition continued to be largely ignored by the media.

The organization said eight of the countries and issues highlighted on its list accounted for just 18 minutes of coverage on the top three US television networks' nightly newscasts from January until November.

The figure did not include coverage of Myanmar or tuberculosis, both of which generated significant media attention, but very little of which focused on the medical humanitarian aspects, the group said.

It said Chechnya, Sri Lanka and the Central African Republic, where thousands of people have fled fighting between government forces and rebels, were never mentioned on the US network broadcasts.

The group suggested that media coverage had changed little over the years, with civil conflict and internal displacement in both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia appearing on nine of the last 10 lists.

The humanitarian costs of war in Chechnya had appeared eight times, while Somalia was listed seven times, most recently due to fighting that killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse

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