Two weeks ago, the Center for American Progress and the Genocide Intervention Fund launched a joint initiative known as "Be A Witness" built around a petition calling on television networks to increase their coverage of the genocide in Darfur.
As "Be a Witness" noted
During June 2005, CNN, FOX News, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.This week, tireless Sudan advocate Nicholas Kristof took up the call and chastised the press for its lack of Darfur coverage If only Michael Jackson's trial had been held in Darfur. Last month, CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CBS collectively ran 55 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they ran about genocide in Darfur. Shortly thereafter, Editor and Publisher printed a piece reporting
New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof's attack on the press for underreporting the atrocities and genocide in Darfur, which ran in today's paper, has drawn the ire of some newspaper editors who said they are doing the best they can with what they have.In this piece, USA Today Foreign Editor James Cox offered a partial but important explanation for the dearth of coverage
Cox pointed to a two-day series USA Today ran in May on Darfur, stressing the difficulty the paper had in even getting a visa for reporter Rick Hampson to travel there. "It was excruciatingly difficult to get the permission," he said. "We had an application that had been stalled for months."Sudan does not want journalists freely traveling around Darfur for the sole reason that their reports are going to reveal the true nature of Khartoum's genocidal campaign.
Considering this basic fact in conjunction with the efforts currently underway to expand the African Union mission in Darfur, it might behoove all involved to consider embedding journalists with the AU just as the US did during the initial weeks of the war in Iraq.
People want information about Darfur; journalists want access to Darfur; and the UN and AU want (or at least should want) to disseminate information regarding to crisis in Darfur as widely as possible.
The US and NATO are currently providing key logistical support to the AU mission and ought to insist that any reporter who wants access to Darfur be assigned to and granted protection by an AU patrol force.
Brian Steidle served with the AU in Darfur for six months before eventually resigning his position so that he could share his photos with the world.
Steidle is a hero for doing this - but it shouldn't take personal acts of sacrifice and courage to make the world aware of the genocide in Darfur.