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By Luc Loranhe (2006)
I have worked as a reporter for newspapers, tabloids, magazines, and radio and TV stations. Though I have quit periodicals a long time ago, I still know how these guys tick.
A good story is an even better assignment if it's reported from a foreign land. For you don't have to worry so much about fact and fiction. And it's a perk to be able to travel far.
Western media covering child prostitution in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Cambodia often create the dangerously wrong impression that it happens very much in the open, and is widely condoned. That's dramatized fiction.
I call the impression dangerously wrong because it entices Western men of limited intelligence to come here and try it out. They regularly get caught and jailed.
To further dramatize their coverage, Western media reports typically exaggerate not just child prostitution but especially the extent, Western tourists are involved. Child prostitution isn't of interest if it happens in the Hindukush and the victim and the customer are both Hindukush locals. For it's a rule for good stories that they somehow must relate to home.
Here just one example on this kind of a good story:
I assume that Western journalists like to do their undercover research into child prostitution in PP rather than in LA not only because of the perks of traveling to an exotic land, and because of the potential to dramatize a story with some fiction. I assume there is another reason, which, by the way, they share with female child rights campaigners and some Catholic priests.
Because it's by and large a low-risk venture, it's cheap heroism.
There has, in Southeast Asia, traditionally not been this strong link between prostitution and organized crime that is typical for the Western hemisphere. Why? Because prostitution never really was illegal in most Southeast Asian countries.
The reference typically made to "syndicates" in Western reports on prostitution in Southeast Asia, even child prostitution, is misleading. A woman talking a village girl into becoming a hostess, and a massage parlor owner who later employs her, don't make a syndicate, even if the conduct of both is illegal, and even if they do it regularly.
A syndicate would be a structure like a Colombian drugs syndicate a mafia-type organization with a hierarchy, its own enforcement units (hit men), and a certain mount of professional equipment (especially arms). Now, these are not typically the structures associated with prostitution in Southeast Asia.
Sure, child prostitution is deplorable, in Southeast Asia just as anywhere in the world. And I'd say: the more violent, the more deplorable.
To tackle the problem on a global scale, it would be helpful if journalists were less concerned about producing a good story, and presenting themselves as daring stingers, but more concerned about reporting on child prostitution in a context in which they really can make a difference.
Child prostitution is an enormous problem in the US, which the US government, sadly enough, has shown little interest in. As established in scientific research (as opposed to claims by child rights groups that ask for donations), North America has some 250,000 child prostitutes, among them 10-year olds serving three to five customers a night.
A US TV-station, instead of deploying a team to Cambodia, could make a real difference at home, where it has much more leverage on politicians and law enforcement agencies than in Cambodia. So how about some courageous undercover-reporting on child prostitution in LA or Houston?
I know why this won't happen. It's too dangerous. Pimps in LA or Houston are more suspicious of undercover journalists, and they are armed and have a track record of brutality against intruders posing as customers? A TV station may buy existing footage offered by freelancers, but no responsible TV editor in the US will assign a camera team and reporter to such a job. They may get hurt, and then the TV station would be liable to pay widows.
Here the link to a report on the scientific study on the extent of child prostitution in the US:
Innocence for Sale
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Copyright Luc Loranhe