A Media Matters study has found near silence on Chechen human rights abuses against queer men on evening cable and broadcast news.
An Aug. 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 ).
In response 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.
"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 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
"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
"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
"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
Media Matters for America's LGBTQ Program works to analyze and monitor media coverage of current events and policy issues impacting the LGBTQ community through original reporting, rapid response fact checks, and in-depth quantitative research about diversity, representation, and media trends.