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UN Releases List of Top 10 Under-Reported Stories - 2004-04-30

The United Nations has released a list of 10 international issues that officials say receive insufficient media attention. Many of the stories have African datelines.

On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, Undersecretary General for Public Information Shashi Tharoor gently chided the U.N. press corps. He noted that with all the issues in the world today, most of questions asked of Secretary General Kofi Annan at his most recent news conference focussed on Iraq.

To emphasize the point, Mr. Tharoor said that at another news conference called explicitly to discuss issues besides Iraq, all the questions still were on Iraq.

He said while the focus on the big story is understandable, it has unfortunate side-effects.

"Too many other stories that deserve attention are slipping off the radar screen," he said.

Mr. Tharoor noted that in most cases, stories that made his top ten list are going unreported because they are so-called second-rung issues occurring in remote places. The top three - and four of the10 - have African datelines.

Number one is the story of child soldiers in Uganda.

"We have kids as killers," said Shashi Tharoor . "According to some estimates, as many as 90 percent of armed soldiers of the so-called Lord's Resistance Army are children, and they are victims. The ones they're killing, abducting, violating, are children, too. It's a story of children killing children that isn't getting enough attention."

Second on Mr. Tharoor's list is the Central African Republic, one of the world's poorest and least reported on countries.

"A cauldron of turbulence that threatens to undermine peace efforts in Central Africa, " he said. "And yet, literally you can do a Google [Internet] search and not find many references, if any, to it."

Other forgotten African stories on the list are the AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa and the border dispute in the Bakassi peninsula between Cameroon and Nigeria.

Positive stories on the list include the rise of Tajikistan from the ashes of civil war, the role of women as peacemakers in rebuilding war-torn societies, and a new treaty being drafted that would promote the rights of persons with disabilities.

Mr. Tharoor said other neglected issues include the plight of indigenous Amazonian groups facing extinction as their living space disappears; the threat to marine biodiversity posed by overfishing; and what is called the peacekeeping paradox, the strain on resources for keeping the peace because there is so much peace to keep.

Mr. Tharoor said his top 10 list would be updated monthly as other under-reported issues come to the world body's attention.