THE INVISIBLE MADELEINES
13 days ago four year old Madeleine McCann from Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from the holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal in which she was sleeping with her siblings whilst her parents had dinner less than 50 meters away.
Since then we have seen endless footage of two young individuals whose pain, sadness and fear for their daughter’s safety can not be described nor imagined. One only has to see Gerry and Kate McCann’s faces to know that every moment since that night has been a living nightmare for them.
11 days after the incident the reward offered to anyone with information leading to Madeleine’s safe return reached £2.5 million. The generosity of the individuals who have contributed to this fund and every other that has taken time to help in some way is a display of human kindness at its finest. Once again we have united as a nation to show our support, courage and strength. We did this after little Jamie Bulger’s brutal murder, the 2004 Tsunami and 07/07 and we will continue to do this as future tragedies take their place in history.
Yet there is something very uncomfortable and disconcerting about the media’s reaction to Madeleine McCann. As each day passes, it is becoming harder to ignore the imbalance of their reporting. Why has precedence been given to one child and her family over the countless others in this world who are locked in endless slavery, abuse, torture and poverty?
The media say they report News. Surely it is the media that has driven the news over the past 13 days. The momentum of this front page 24/7 reporting has created a void which is not backfilled by any measured reporting of an issue that affects thousands of children every day of every year. Once again the media have failed to give voice to the poor.
In a report by Human Rights Watch published in January 2004, the report details child abductions in Northern Uganda as one of the most flagrant examples. ‘The Lord’s Resistance Army has abducted an estimated 10,000 children since mid 2002. These children are forced to fight against the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces, raid villages for food, slaughter civilians, and abduct other children. Children who try to escape are killed, typically by other children who are forced to beat or hack the victim or be killed themselves’.
Around Easter this year the plight of children slaving on Cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast so that we can effortlessly eat Easter eggs was given some media attention albeit very minimal. A survey in 2002 by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture found that 284 000 children were working in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms in West Africa. Many of these children were trafficked. Imagine Wembley Stadium filled three times over. This is how many children’s lives are at stake.
Why has this not been drummed, hammered and stamped into our conscience by the media with daily headlines and graphic accounts of these children? Their names, their age, their smiles, their tears. We hear nothing. We see nothing. Why are we not reminded every day that bonded labour, warfare and child prostitution is an everyday reality for so many of the world’s children?
There is no doubt that there is a lot of money being given to aid children whose human rights have and are being violated. There are many selfless and generous people in our world and every bit counts. And there is no question of the validity of the reward to bring Madeleine home. Everyone wants this beautiful little girl to be safe and back in her parents’ arms again.
It is unfortunate that the media has isolated this heart wrenching story and have failed to frame it within a global context. Every child is priceless and most importantly every child is equal. As human beings we have a moral duty to remember the thousands of invisible children who we will never ever hear about every time we think, hope and pray for Madeleine McCann.