Sunday, March 8, 2009

Underreported Issues and Regions

Edited by Ellen Schnier
by Kristin Eckert

As an international correspondent, the task should be to report on underreported issues and regions so that step by step with continuous coverage, awareness of problems and their causes is created among a larger (international) public. Studies have shown that public opinion can shape foreign policy.

Reporting about the economic and social conditions of poor people and creating a context on how they contribute to ethnic and religious conflict will demonstrate to the public how seemingly unrelated issues are connected. By exposing these links and keeping the topic alive in the media, a public debate can create pressure resulting in action by a (foreign) government, NGO, or even individuals to help. The role of the international journalist is to find and cover underreported issues and regions, to investigate the underlying causes of conflicts, and to report continuously to raise public (international) awareness.

Reporting about the hopes and concerns of Bangladeshis for their new government has shown me that their concerns are very basic: peace, better Internet, lower food prices, more investment into education, and freedom of speech. The mission of the U.S. government to Bangladesh concentrates on stability, democracy, and denying space to terrorists. Only one person in my survey among six Bangladeshis mentioned terrorism as a concern, however, all talked about food and freedom of speech. It is important to listen to citizens and experts who have different interests than the U.S. government or their own country's administration.

Apart from this discrepancy, ethnicity and religion are often not contained within national or geographic boundaries. Because of that, governments can only represent a geographically defined country and maybe a nation. Not every nationality, ethnicity, or religion that lives in their territory, however, is represented by an administration. This also applies to gender in some cases. As an international journalist, it is crucial to speak to groups who represent different identities that reflect the make up of a region in addition to government sources to give a more authentic picture of a (power) struggle.

Photo courtesy of Voice of Bangladesh

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