On its January 16 broadcast, ABC's World News Tonight aired this brief item about the annual report released that day by Human Rights Watch:
"The international human rights group Human Rights Watch has released its annual report, and it says that several countries are using the U.S.-led war against terrorism as a justification to ignore human rights. Human Rights Watch says that Russia, Egypt, Israel, China, Zimbabwe, Malaysia and Uzbekistan have all cracked down on domestic opponents in the name of terrorism."
That summary is close to what the group's press release stated (1/16/02): "The anti-terror campaign led by the United States is inspiring opportunistic attacks on civil liberties around the world, Human Rights Watch warned in its annual global survey released today."
But one country singled out for criticism by Human Rights Watch was conspicuously absent from ABC's report: the United States, whose anti-terrorism measures were described in the group's press release as "threatening long-held human rights principles."
Among Bush administration actions that were identified as demonstrating a "troubling disregard for well-established human rights safeguards" were "new laws permitting the indefinite detention of non-citizens, special military commissions to try suspected terrorists, the detention of over 1,000 people, and the abrogation of the confidentiality of attorney-client communications for certain detainees."
While ABC ignored this criticism of the U.S. in favor of pointing fingers at other countries, the rights report actually drew a connection between the erosion of human rights standards in the U.S. and overseas. As the London Guardian reported (1/17/02), "dictators 'need do nothing more than photocopy' measures introduced by the Bush administration, whose ability to criticise abuses in other countries was thus deeply compromised, said the New York-based Human Rights Watch in a devastating 660-page report."
ABC's exclusion of criticism of the U.S. did a disservice to its viewers. U.S. human rights problems are the ones that are most likely to affect them, and also those that they are most in a position to do something about.
Please ask ABC to issue a correction to its original report about the Human Rights Watch Annual Report to reflect the group's criticisms of the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks of September 11.
ABC's World News Tonight