UN Human Rights Council silly season continues; journalists look away, again

UN Human Rights Council silly season continues; journalists look away, again

Little more than a month ago I posted a piece here about Saudi Arabia winning a key role at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the world body's very own exemplar of hypocrisy -- where governments run by despots get to shield each other from global scrutiny while drawing attention to those nations they find it convenient to skewer.

That post was written on the occasion of the absolute monarchy's ascendence to the chair of the UNHRC panel that selects investigators to report on allegations of human rights violations made against specific nations. Choose the investigator and you've largely assured that the outcome will be to your liking.

This post is occasioned by last week's UN General Assembly vote that appointed  or reappointed 18 UNHRC members, seven of whom were reelected to serve a second consecutive three-year-term. (The United States, it's second term three-year-term now up, leaves the UNHRC at year's end in accordance with UN term-limit rules.)

The results were largely predictable. Nations with terrible human rights records were added or reelected to the UNHRC. They include Togo, Burundi, Venezuela and United Arab Emirates.

All four nations have been accused by human rights watchdog groups of curbing freedoms of speech, press, religion, and assembly. Additionally, they've been accused of having government-corrupted legal systems and have voted against UN resolutions meant to aid victims of human rights abuses in various global conflict zones.

But while the Saudi Arabia story received some elite media coverage, the UNHRC election appears to have been largely ignored by American news outlets.

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Human rights? Let's learn from Saudi Arabia. The UN does.

Human rights? Let's learn from Saudi Arabia. The UN does.

Headed to Manhattan? Be careful. It's that time of year again. The 70th annual Grand Debate of the United Nations General Assembly has descended upon Gotham -- and Bruce Wayne is no where to be found.

Once again, we're knee deep in speeches by world leaders who muddy their talks with agenda-driven half-truths and outright lies, and, on occasion, lofty goals that never seem to manifest. Not to mention the finger-pointing, buck-passing, and pleas from the world's have-not nations for help from the wealthy -- another reason for general disappointment.

Plus, it's the cause of massive midtown Manhattan traffic jams. So watch yourself. Better yet, join Wayne, where ever he is.

Monday's opening day featured dueling speeches by President Barack Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin. Guess what. Each had a better idea for turning the world toward the peaceable kingdom.

But this is GetReligion, so let's skip the headline-grabbing political theater and focus on another UN farce -- Saudi Arabia's growing role within the UN's Human Rights Council.

Why is this important to journalists, and religion writers in particular?

Because the skewed judgements and pronouncements emanating from the Human Rights Council are too often reported -- particularly in barebones wire-service stories -- as carrying legitimate moral authority with little or no information that adds important counter-balancing context.

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