Sunday, May 16, 2010

Invisible Children

News - both print news in newspapers and now online, and TV/radio news - is incredibly subjective. It's not entirely their fault; at any one time, there's so much happening in the world, to report it all would take up more time than TV stations have and more space than newspapers can spare. Unfortunately, because TV and radio news is free for the audience, the margin left for actual news once all the necessary advertising space (and the weather reports) have been squeezed in is not enough to cover even the important local, national and global events. Because TV stations are constantly fighting each other for viewership, they feel (and often are) compelled to put in bulletins which are (in my opinion, anyway) absolute fluff; "fluff", for me, meaning anything to do with the life of a celebrity or an animal that does something supposedly unusual. Important political, economic, social and legal matters - both local and international - should take priority over such trivial matters. I feel quite strongly about this issue with the focus of news media, in part because of Invisible Children.

I'm going to take a wild guess and say most of you haven't read or heard that name before. Allow me to explain: in Uganda right now there is an organisation called the Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA. Headed by Joseph Kony, this group hides in the jungle, emerging sporadically. The people of Uganda fear and despise Kony and the LRA, whose numbers continue to grow: at night, every child in Uganda is at risk of being abducted by the LRA. These captured children are sometimes killed, but usually, in the case of the girls, are made to become an officer's 'wife'. The boys are physically and emotionally abused, threatened with violence, and eventually become one of Kony's mentally disturbed child soldiers.

This issue didn't make it to the news. Nobody wanted to talk about it. It may have remained a secret swept under the rug of the global community, if it had not been for three American boys, Bobby, Laren and Jason, who decided they were going to go on holiday in Uganda, and take a video camera with them. In conversations with locals, with children who left their homes every night to sleep in warehouses and underground car parks because it was safer than sleeping in their own homes, and in one hasty escape from a village the LRA was raiding, the boys uncovered this horrible situation. And they decided to do something about it.

The film Invisible Children was released in 2006. In 2009, the organisation started a global campaign to ask governments to do something to help the children of Uganda. On May 12th, 2010, after a petition garnering over 200,000 signatures and a camp-out of 11 days and 10 nights outside of American senator Tom Coburn's offices, a bill entitled The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act was introduced in the congress of the United States of America.

It passed.

The issue is far from being resolved. There is still so much to be done, and other countries need to get involved. Please visit their website, and learn about this tragedy happening right under our noses. Even if all you do is pass the message on, it's better than doing nothing. By making someone else aware of this issue, you're doing something to help make these children visible.


  1. I've actually heard of this. My big thing is how we never hear anything on the news about slavery, even though there are over 27 million slaves in the world today. No one talks about it, and in my opinion, human trafficking is the most important issue in the world.

  2. Heather: I think people are too easily daunted. Just because problems are beyond us doesn't mean we should ignore them; I think that's the default setting most people adopt because it's so much 'easier'. I think human trafficking is definitely one of the worst things out there, but for me it's tied with hunger and poverty. Those things can crush spirits - and kill people - just as horribly and easily as slavery. And it is a kind of slavery, too.

  3. I've also heard of the LRA, although I can't quite think of how. But there's definitely a problem in that the way the media works rewards sensationalism and 'new' news (as in, "nobody wants to hear about the tsunami victims now, that was ages ago" sort of things). I think it's great that the internet can help bring a balance to it though - that now we can raise the profiles of things and get access to high-quality information about all sorts of issues for free and worldwide.

  4. Bella: I'm hoping you might have seen/heard something on the news about the bill :) I haven't watched TV in the last week but I have a sad feeling that it won't get covered by the Australian media.

    I totally agree with you, blogging, online news and citizen journalism is hugely important in this current day and age. People can find out more, and discuss more, rather than just getting spoon-fed by the corporate media. Power to the people, baby.


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