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The Bulgarian media do not recognise the crisis in Darfur The information about grave human rights violations around the world does not enjoy too much popularity with our journalists

By Vessela TERZIEVA

C

urrently, probably one of the hugest humanitarian crises is taking place in Africa. Between 30,000 and 50,000 people populating the Darfur province in West Sudan have been killed, over 1,2 million have been displaced and forced to abandon their miserable accommodation and food after their villages were occupied and set to fire by the Janjaweed, the government-backed militia in Sudan. The events, which are deeply horrifying, have generated the respective political reactions. At the end of July, the US Senate adopted a resolution condemning the situation in Sudan as genocide. The European Union sent a delegation to establish whether the case is ¡merely� one of ethnic cleansing and crime against humanity or one of genocide. On 18 September, the United Nations Security Council adopted another resolution inviting Sudan to stop the ethnic cleansing for the fear of economic sanctions and decided to send a special commission to investigate reports of genocide. Quite naturally, the media around the world have been following the events closely. In just three weeks, from 24 July to 14 August 2004, the International Herald Tribune published 14 articles, including editorials, dedicated to the grave human rights violations in Darfur. Bearing in mind that the paper comes out 6 days a week, this means that the topic was discussed in 14 out of 18 issues. Other media provided similar coverage. The BBC releases direct reports and considers it necessary to start its evening news with the events in Darfur. The French papers Liberation and Le Monde also provide regular coverage of the crisis. For the Bulgarian citizen, who trusts our domestic media for international news information, the issue remains non-existent. Information about the events in Darfur is scarce or missing altogether. Moreover, the situation in Darfur is not the only one: information about grave human rights violations does not enjoy great popularity with the

Bulgarian media. Why? Probably the newspaper editors would say that this type of information does not appeal to the Bulgarians too much. But how is it possible for anything to appeal to us or not, if it doesn’t exist for us? The public opinion is moved by information, which regularly falls within the scope of vision of the audience. We read about corruption and we care about corruption; we read about the European Union and we care about the European Union. When we fail to hear a word about grave human rights violations around the world, we do not care about it. When human rights issues are almost totally disregarded, we gradually lose our sensitivity to them, which helps us marginalise this type of problems from our minds: both on the international and on the domestic scale. Another possible explanation about the silence of the Bulgarian media on the grave violation of human rights worldwide could be that, at this stage, on an international scale, the particular state is not our national priority. But if journalistic interest gravitated only around national priorities ignoring any other international information, how could we ever assess the actions of our government on an international scale? How can we condemn the grave human rights violations in one state and ignore a similar situation in another? And how do we assess whether the government is actually following their priorities along the lines of values and principles, or is acting based on the state of affairs? In a globalised world resting on the idea of respect for human personality and human dignity, the issue of the grievous breach of human rights in the state of X is not merely a problem for that state, but for anyone having democratic and humanitarian beliefs. We will become a part of Europe not because someone signed a treaty somewhere, but when we start sharing the same values and caring about the same issues. And if the media can be regarded as an indicator, this day is not likely to dawn very soon. OBEKTIV 27

The Bulgarian media do not recognise the crisis in Darfur  

Publication of the journal Obektiv, number 115 By Vessela Terzieva

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