Election 2008 The World is Watching

Editor's Note

Sunlight Best Disinfectant in Under-Reported World

BY FRONTLINE/World EditorsOctober 8, 2008

Even in the best of times, i.e., a slow news day, faraway events that don't involve U.S. citizens or interests have a hard time attracting mainstream media attention.

And these are not slow news days. With the American presidential election just weeks away, and the economic crisis worsening, international stories we should know about simply cannot compete.

For those at the center of these under-reported stories, media coverage can be a powerful deterrent to government malfeasance, and a crucial lifeline for disenfranchised communities otherwise cut off from the outside world. Without international attention, impunity rules.

What could or should the next U.S. president do to push for human rights in represssive regimes, such as Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe?

Burma is a case in point. For a harrowing report from inside a country that has been effectively closed to the outside world for nearly five decades, take a look at our story, Inside the Saffron Revolution. And for an update on U Kosida, the courageous monk featured in the report, you may want to listen to this recent radio piece from PRI's The World.

Kosida, it turns out, has been granted asylum in the U.S., and is living in Utica, NY. The World's Marco Werman caught up with him there and asked him to make the case for U.S. intervention in an open letter to both Obama and McCain. (Note: The radio piece spells Kosida's name differently -- both versions are phonetic -- but it is the same person.)

Burma, of course, is only one of many countries suffering similar media neglect, and FRONTLINE/World does its best to swim against that tide. In fact, we know there is a constituency for this kind of international reporting because so many of you take the time and trouble to respond to our stories, sometimes quite passionately, and from all over the world.

Our recent report on the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, for example, has triggered a very lively and contentious debate on the question of whether and how to report honestly on terrorism without seeming to condone its violent practices. You can see the report and wade into the discussion here.

With both these stories in mind, we thought we would ask this question:

What could or should the next U.S. president do to push for human rights in represssive regimes, such as Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe?

Post your comments below and tell us what you think.

share your reactions

Uva Meiner - San Jose, Costa Rica
There needs to be a move towards Human Rights and respect inside of each one of us, regardless of country, color, or religion. If we want to cultivate Human Rights anywhere, we need to be an example of respect for Human Rights, in the big and in the small. The US needs to lead by example not through sanctions or threats, while selling arms to whoever pays most and abusing Human Rights in its own land. Teach our children by example with every step we take and we will soon see profound and lasting changes worldwide. We are becoming more and more One World, divided into me and you by greed. So let us unite and each one teach one by example including the new president of the United States who then can teach the world.

William Davis - Newport News, VA
I find myself very skeptical of US foreign policy in the light of historical events. Strategic attempts to export US-styled democracy have more often met with failure rather than success. The right of self determination really rests with the citizens or subjects of a particular nation. Any attempt by a foreign power to intervene in another country may be viewed as interference in the internal affairs of that country. While the US obviously can't apply a one-size-fits-all strategy to its foreign policy objectives, certainly there must be uniform standards as to when and how to attempt intervention. We must stop relying so much on military intervention as a solution. I am hopeful that the next president (regardless of who it is) will seriously consider creative solutions to solving the problems of the international community that don't necessitate the use of military force.

Chuck Russell - Yuma, AZ
The next US president should make strong suggestions to other countries and illustrate how democracy has work for us and others. He should not try to force democracy on any other country, especially not by starting a war.

Della Farrer - Ft. Wayne, IN
The world needs truth, justice and righteousness. Until that happens there will always be problems. There is one God and Father of us all.

Robbins-Vogel Wendy - Yountville, CA
I too believe that we need to support a UN effort.which needs to maintain some sort of force to back up peace keeping efforts until other means are found to stabilize a country. We do need a dep't. of peace more than a Dep't of war.

Charles Monroe - Atlanta, GA
Too often countries of power put their interests before human life. There should be a world coalition to combat these problems in the world. For example, in Iraq there should have been world involvement from all countries that are in the UN. Terrorism is world wide and therefore needs world cooperation. How can these countries, especially those that are powerful like the US, Russia, UK, France, Germany, etc, just sit by and watch human be slaughtered in Sudan, in other parts of Africa, and around the world. It just doesn't make sense to me that these powerful countries do nothing but send aid that may or may not get to those who need it. These countries need stability with a powerful force from the UN. Someone has to take the lead and demand that others do so. This reflects badly on all people of the world.