Human rights organizations call on top US newscasts to “shine a spotlight” on Chechnya’s anti-gay abuses

Human rights organizations call on top US newscasts to “shine a spotlight” on Chechnya’s anti-gay abuses

A Media Matters study found that cable and broadcast evening news mentioned the imprisonment and execution of gay men by Chechen authorities only three times in four months

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Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Major LGBTQ advocacy groups and international human rights organizations have called on evening newscasts to cover the Chechen authorities’ imprisonment and execution of queer men following a Media Matters study, which found that cable and broadcast evening news have virtually ignored the human rights crisis.

Media Matters study finds near silence on Chechen human rights abuses against queer men on evening cable and broadcast news

An August 1 Media Matters study of evening cable and broadcast news found only three significant mentions of anti-LGBTQ abuses by Chechen authorities across the six cable and broadcast networks’ evening programming over a four-month period. The New York Times broke the story domestically on April 1, citing independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. From then through July 31, only two outlets -- NBC Nightly News and a special evening edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper -- aired full reports on the crisis. CNN touched on the issue during an episode of Anderson Cooper 360 in a brief exchange between host Anderson Cooper and guest Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

LGBTQ and international human rights organizations stress the media’s “responsibility to shine a spotlight on these shocking abuses”


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

In repsonse to the study, major LGBTQ and international human rights advocacy organizations have called on news networks to cover the story, stressing the importance of media coverage and U.S. influence in compelling authorities in Chechnya and Russia to stop the abuses.

Amnesty International has played a key advocacy role in urging the Chechen and Russian authorities to investigate the human rights abuses against gay men in Chechnya. Eric Ferrero, deputy executive director at Amnesty International USA, explained that the dearth of evening news coverage bolstered Chechen authorities’ erroneous “insistence that gay people don’t even exist in the country”:

“One of the most insidious aspects of Chechen authorities’ abuse of gay men is the insistence that gay people don’t even exist in the country. The lack of broadcast media coverage of this crisis only serves their goal of erasing the existence of the LGBT community entirely. We cannot stay silent in the face of the systemic kidnapping, torture, and murder of gay men in Chechnya. The media spotlight is critical to ensuring that these men are not forgotten.” -- Eric Ferrero, deputy executive director, Amnesty International USA

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in the country, has also actively worked to combat Chechnya’s human rights abuses with its #EyesOnChechnya campaign and has urged its supporters to take action. HRC has also helped promote a key Russian LGBT Network report detailing the persecution of LGBTQ Chechens. Jeremy Kadden, HRC senior international policy advocate, said that “the Media Matters report showing the lack of media attention to Chechnya’s horrific human rights abuses is truly disturbing,” adding, “Without sufficient focus on this, the victims will continue to languish and suffer in secret prisons”:

“The Media Matters report showing the lack of media attention to Chechnya's horrific human rights abuses is truly disturbing. With over 100 LGBTQ people rounded up, detained without trial, tortured, and some of them killed, the world needs to be paying attention. Cable news is watched closely at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and without sufficient focus on this, the victims will continue to languish and suffer in secret prisons — without support from the White House or access to lawyers, human rights advocates, or anyone who can help them.” -- Jeremy Kadden, senior international policy advocate, Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights First (HRF) has called on President Donald Trump and his administration to take action and has also helped highlight the Russian LGBT Network report. Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel and head of HRF’s international initiative to combat violence against LGBTQ people, told Media Matters that “significant international attention” is necessary to get Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to respect the human rights of the LGBTQ community. Gaylord stressed the importance of the media in public education, saying, “The American public must stand up and demand action from the administration. First, they have to know what's happening. It falls on the media to draw these horrific abuses into the light.” Gaylord praised MTV for its role in the #EyesOnChechnya campaign in support of LGBTQ Chechens but added, “It isn’t an exaggeration to say coverage of this crisis is vital to ending it. For many, the very fact that this is occurring in Chechnya makes it abstract. Media is instrumental in making it concrete”:

“Chechen leader Kadyrov and Russian President Putin will never act to solve this crisis on their own volition. They have proven time and time again that their respect for human rights doesn't extend to all of their citizens, specifically to members of the LGBT community. The only way to get them to respect those rights is from significant international attention to these abuses and public pressure from the United States and its partners to hold the perpetrators accountable. The American public must stand up and demand action from the administration. First, they have to know what's happening. It falls on the media to draw these horrific abuses into the light.

[...]

While some media companies like MTV have mounted campaigns to spur action in response to the attacks on gay and bisexual Chechens, there is no doubt that more could be done to raise awareness of these abuses. It isn't an exaggeration to say coverage of this crisis is vital to ending it. For many, the very fact that this is occurring in Chechnya makes it abstract. Media is instrumental in making it concrete. We're urging the media to raise the voices of survivors and to highlight the work of groups like the Russia LGBT network that are working to bring LGBT Chechens to safety. The more these heartbreaking stories are told, the harder it will be for Kadyrov to deny that these abuses are taking place.” -- Shawn Gaylord, Advocacy Counsel, Human Rights First

LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD has also repeatedly called on Trump and the Trump administration to condemn the human rights abuses in Chechnya. Drew Anderson, GLAAD’s director of news and rapid response, told Media Matters that “more must be done” in the media to “push back against this crisis.” Anderson noted that nontraditional media outlets, such as CBS’ streaming coverage, have been highlighting the human rights violation more so than their traditional counterparts, but added that more mainstream media coverage “would put pressure on the Trump administration to speak out against the disgusting attacks”:

“Though some networks like CBS have dedicated significant streaming coverage to the LGBTQ attacks in Chechnya, it’s simply not good enough and more must be done. President Trump, who is no friend to LGBTQ people, has failed to condemn these attacks – leaving all the pressure on the media to push back against this crisis. If the mainstream media dedicated more coverage to Chechnya, it would put pressure on the Trump Administration to speak out against the disgusting attacks.” -- Drew Anderson, director of news and rapid response, GLAAD

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is another major international human rights organization calling on Western governments to “press Russian authorities at the highest level to resolutely condemn what effectively stands for a mop-up operation against gay men in Chechnya.” In May, HRW released a detailed report on the subject that gives firsthand accounts of victims of the crisis, as well as a list of recommendations for combatting it. Graeme Reid, director of HRW’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, responded to Media Matters’ study, saying that “the world needs to pay attention to the egregious human rights abuses” in Chechnya and stressing the media’s “responsibility to shine a spotlight on these shocking abuses”:

“The purge against gay men in Chechnya, undertaken on orders from top government, has taken place under a cloak of secrecy and denial by authorities there. The detention and torture of gay men is but the latest example of the Chechen government’s disregard for the most basic human rights. The world needs to pay attention to the egregious human rights abuses that continue to take place in Chechnya. The media has a responsibility to shine a spotlight on these shocking abuses.” -- Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, Human Rights Watch

Posted In
LGBTQ
Network/Outlet
CNN, NBC
Show/Publication
NBC Nightly News, The Lead with Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper 360
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