An agony that many Tibetan and Tibet supporters continue to suffer, following the recent spate of self-immolations in Tibet, has now come to the fore of international media.
The TIME magazine survey on a wide-ranging list of the highs and lows of the past 12 months has put the “Self-Immolation of Tibetan Monks” as the number one “underreported story” for the year 2011.
Since March this year, 12 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet, protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet and demanding the return of the Dalai Lama from exile. The latest incidence of self-immolation occurred in Chamdo region of Tibet on December 1. Although, Tenzin Phuntsok was dying in a Chinese military hospital following his self-immolation, the Chinese state media insisted on reporting about his “stable condition”. Relatives and local Tibetans who were barred from visiting Tenzin Phuntsok came to know of his death only four days later, while the Chinese authorities still continue to refuse handing over the deceased’s body to his family for last rituals.
A comparative Google news search shows why Tibet’s fiery episode of self-immolations, for a cause that reverberates the basic of fundamental human rights, is the most underreported story.
Searching for ‘Tenzin Phuntsok self immolation’ in Google news, as of now, shows only four results while if you punch in a far trivial subject like ‘Strauss Kahn scandal’, the results thrown up is a hundred times more.
The TIME magazine in its ratings conceded that it usually takes a U.S. President tweaking Beijing by meeting with the Dalai Lama, or a celebrity-studded Richard Gere fundraiser, to get Tibet into the news these days.
“Not so the despair of many Tibetans at their plight under Chinese rule, now in its seventh decade,” TIME wrote.
Speaking to Phayul, Tsewang Rigzin, President of the largest pro-independence group in exile retorted that the underreporting on the self-immolation of Tibetans was like adding insult to injury.
“These historic sacrifices in the form of self-immolations by Tibetan monks and nuns for Tibet’s Independence and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet not only deserves headlines in media worldwide and concrete support from world leaders but for it to be underreported is an insult to injury,” Rigzin said.
“Self Immolation and hunger strikes are the last resorts for a non-violent struggle and it is high time the world media and world leaders give due recognition, reporting and support for these ultimate sacrifices before it is too late,” Rigzin added.
Karma Yeshi, a member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile and a former editor of one of the major radio services in the exile community told Phayul that the “very mention of the immolation incidents as the most underreported story of the year is akin to accepting that the cries of those who torched their bodies were ignored by the world media.”
“Even after receiving exclusive footage of Tibetan nun Palden Choetso’s last moments after torching herself in November, the BBC did not show it until a few days back. And when they actually did, they showed it along with an interview of Kalon Tripa Lobsang Sangay,” the member of parliament said.
Urging the world media to highlight the non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people, Yeshi expressed his hope that this “end of the year rating by TIME will nevertheless bring some amount of attention that the sacrifices had missed throughout the year”.