3 Human Rights Stories You Won’t See On CNN (Opinion)

It seems the media is always angrily invoked whenever pundits or politicians feel the need to assign blame. “The media!” is so often the target of blame it has become a cliché.

But sometimes, the media really does fail the public in substantive ways. In these cases, they deserve blame. This article references CNN by name, but the points made here can easily apply to any other mainstream news network.

Here’s a look at three stories CNN obsessed over, while the more important stories fell through the cracks.

ISIS beheadings! VS. Saudi Arabia’s less interesting beheadings. 

Last year, CNN reported endlessly on the gruesome beheadings committed by ISIS. But at the same time CNN was airing every gristly detail of each execution, they were simultaneously ignoring a country that had been using decapitation as a method of capital punishment for decades: Saudi Arabia.

While CNN was preoccupied with ISIS coverage, Saudi Arabia was quietly ramping up state-sponsored decapitation, reaching the highest rate in two decades.

Though ISIS must be held accountable for their human rights violations, they are, however, illegitimate conquerors. Despite ISIS fancying themselves a “state,” Saudi Arabia is an actual state recognized by the international community and has a legitimacy ISIS does not. Despite their human rights abuses which extend well beyond their policies on capital punishment, Saudi Arabia is considered a key ally of the United States which has maintained a cordial relationship with the Saudis in the last two administrations. Not least of which has to do with Saudi Arabia’s massive oil reserves.

When searching on cnn.com using the keywords “Saudi+Arabia+beheadings,” you find CNN has written precious little on the subject amid a mountain of ISIS-related beheadings.

When it comes to ISIS’s crimes, CNN is all too ready to hold them accountable; but when it comes to our oil-rich friends, suddenly beheading isn’t such a big deal.

 Missing Malaysian Plane VS. Boring Malaysian Civil Liberties 

For months after the Malaysia Airlines flights MH370 went missing, CNN reported the story day after day. Even when there was no new information–that did’t stop CNN’s round-the-clock coverage. They even went so far as to have a “psychic medium” as a guest on the program to discuss  the whereabouts of the plane.

But what CNN didn’t report in 2014 was that the Malaysian government had doubled-down on their long standing “Sedition Act” which has since been used to charge 20 people with including, academics, bloggers, activists and even  4 opposition parliamentarians according to Human Rights Watch’s  2015 World Report.

CNN had time to speculate on the various theories, regarding the plane, including supernatural theories, but failed to report a single story on Malaysia’s repressive moves.

The Cable News Network really has it’s priorities straight.

El Chapo VS. Femicides in Juarez–who cares!

For the past several months Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been all the rage on CNN ever since his escape and Sean Penn interview.

But instead of reporting on Guzman’s ties to the  Juarez Cartel and the lawlessness they helped foster, CNN has instead chosen to focus on the celebrity element of the story. CNN published several posts on Guzman’s “beauty queen” wife, calling their relationship a “narco-fairy tale.” Another post is titled “‘El Chapo’s’ Infatuation with Actress Kate Del Castillo”  (more like CNN’s infatuation with El Chapo) which published “flirty text messages”between Guzman and Del Castillo.

CNN seems to enjoy discussing the women in Guzman’s life. But why not report on the countless women who are dead because of him?

Femicide, the targeted killing of women, has long been a problem for the city of Juarez in which killers enjoy relative impunity. The Juarez Cartel, which Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel was affiliated with, contributed to the violence and lawlessness that existed, and continues to exist, in Juarez.

Obviously this serious issue isn’t sexy enough for CNN, otherwise it would have back to back coverage like ISIS or a missing plane or the intimate details of a criminal’s sex life.

For some stories, there’s no way to make them sexy or turn them into click-bait. Some stories are worthy of our attention because they pertain to our basic human rights.

If outlets like CNN want to be TMZ, then so be it. But they should quit calling themselves news organizations.







Author: Madeline Ackley

I am a multimedia journalist studying at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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