The long-lasting effect of less reported issues

Sometimes, crucial matters that will have far-reaching consequences get pushed to the sidelines of the news cycle.

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The long-lasting effect of less reported issues - NewsMavens
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-- by Daria Sukharchuk, December 2017

Blame news fatigue, and our inexhaustible thirst for novelty. We constantly gravitate towards recently discovered phenomena and forget the rest. 

However, if one takes the time to look beyond the frontpages, it quickly becomes obvious that a multitude of forgotten issues are still very much alive, issues many would be surprised to learn still exist in 2017.

The most glaring of those is probably Ireland’s abortion policy. Ireland, a country that has only recently legalized gay marriage, still has one of Europe’s harshest laws on abortion -- it is illegal in all cases, except for threats to the mother’s life. It is no longer a secret to anybody that women who want abortions still get them -- either by ordering pills online (e.g. through Women on Web), or by travelling to other countries.

 And yet, under the current Irish law, these women can face up to 14 years in prison for an abortion (and a life sentence in Northern Ireland).  

Now, Ireland is looking into making abortion available for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy without restriction -- the new policy will be voted on during a referendum in 2018.

Another piece of news that feels like it hardly belongs in this year is that Malta is rolling out its first-ever migrant integration strategy. The small island nation has one of Europe’s biggest per-capita rates of asylum applications. The new program will focus on helping new arrivals to learn about Malta, and, most importantly, to get their residence permits (and permanent residency for those who have stayed over 5 years).

The program is still far from perfect -- for example, it doesn’t say what will happen to the rejected asylum seekers. It will be interesting to see what befits this program brings because, as is the case in Malta, refugees are often able to find their place in society, even if they do not have a legal residency.

Key pieces of news can also fall between the cracks when they're on the less sensational end of the spectrum.

For example, Bosnia has introduced a new excise tax that has been widely criticized by the economists and the opposition, but was forced on the country by the international institutions, such a the IMF, as the condition of extended credit. The EU Bank for Reconstruction and Development has also supported the move as a crucial condition for Bosnia to receive funds needed for infrastructure. While this new tax will indeed fill the public budget, it will also increase the cost of living in a country which is already one of the poorest on the continent. While the measure was discussed at length in Bosnian media, the matter was completely absent from within the EU.

Our newspapers ponder endlessly over the internal policies of the EU, but we know nearly nothing about its relations with smaller neighbours.

As a rule, size seems to contribute to anonymity. Even sensational news can fail to make it into the European mainstream if it comes from a small country. In Slovakia, a convicted pedophile managed to adopt a young child, and to live with her in a one-room apartment. He is now accused of producing child pornography. Coming from Russia, I would think that he could get custody of this girl by bribing the court. Apparently not -- the adoption of a child by a convicted criminal is completely legal in Slovakia, and local authorities do not seem bothered. Despite public outrage, the prosecutor who authorized the adoption only received a verbal rebuke and the policy will, most likely, remain unchanged. 

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Even if they happen to take place far from our own countries, these situations all affect vulnerable groups, and because of this they are relevant to wider audiences. However, they will only appear in our newspapers if we give a clear signal to the media industry that we, as an audience, have sufficient maturity to go beyond the "big" news.

**This article was written as part of a NewsMavens collaboration with exceptional freelance women journalists in Europe. Daria Sukharchuk has completed her MA in journalism and media studies at Erasmus Mundus Journalism in Aarhus and Hamburg, and works as a freelance journalist since 2014, specializing in topics of human rights. She writes in English and Russian and is based in Berlin.**

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