Q on the tube: News you aren’t seeing

With newspapers on life-support, the majority of Americans — more than 80 percent — say they get their news first from TV. That number means it’s incumbent upon network and cable news to report expansively on news that is important to all Americans.

For months, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — once the central issue in the presidential primary — have receded from news coverage to an almost-negligible level. A year ago, there was at least a half-hour of war reporting on each of the major-network evening newscasts per week. That has dropped to less than 10 minutes per week per network.

More disturbing, however, is what news we aren’t seeing.

On March 31, a law allowing women to be raped in marriage was passed in Afghanistan.

According to the U.N., which published information on the law, Afghan President Hamid Karzai backed a law that the U.N. Development Fund for Women says legalizes rape within marriage. The same law also forbids women from leaving the house for any reason without permission.

According to the U.N., the law says women cannot seek work, education or doctors’ appointments unless their husband or a male relative approves.

International outrage followed the U.N. revelation. On April 7, a spokesperson for Karzai said the Afghan leader would “review” the law. Thus far nothing has happened.

Whether or not the law gets changed, this was still very much news that never made it to the American networks. Yet BBC World News, which runs twice a day on PBS, considered it a lead story.

The missing headlines don’t end there. According to the BBC, gay men are being targeted in Iraq by Shi’ite death squads.

The London-based Iraqi LGBT group asserts that more than 30 gay men and teenagers have been targeted and executed by death squads in recent weeks.

ThinkProgress, a Washington, D.C.-based political Web site, reported on murders of gay men in Iraq last week, acknowledged by the Iraqi government itself.

“An Iraqi defense ministry official reports that at least six gay men have been shot dead in two separate incidents during the past 10 days in a Shia-controlled part of Baghdad.” The official said that three bullet-riddled bodies of gay individuals have been identified in Sadr City.

In addition, Amnesty International and Iraqi LGBT assert that many more gays and lesbians are scheduled for state-sponsored execution. According to Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT, 128 Iraqi gays and lesbians are being held for execution, including a member of the Iraqi LGBT group.

In 2004, the new Iraqi government re-instituted “morals” laws that allowed for the death penalty for anyone engaging in homosexuality. Hili called this “unacceptable and deplorable.”

Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to make public all information pertaining to the 128 people, including full names, charges and their current places of detention.

So why the news blackout in the U.S. about these human-rights abuses — which America, with its military presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is now a party to? If the majority of Americans get news from ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC and FOX, where are the reports on the violence against women and queers?

Americans of all sexual orientations should know their tax dollars are indirectly supporting state-sponsored oppression, violence and murder.

That’s news. Refusing to report it doesn’t make it less newsworthy.

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.