ABC's Primetime Presents Imbalanced Report on Conflict Diamonds

October 13, 2000

ABC's Primetime Presents Imbalanced Report on Conflict Diamonds

ABC News program Primetime reported on the topic of conflict diamonds, specifically in Sierra Leone, in its premiere last night. The program began with scenes of war-torn Sierra Leone and mutilated victims of the rebels' rampage. "None of this would be possible without diamonds," reporter John Quinones said of the despair in Sierra Leone. "Without diamonds, the rebels wouldn't even exist," he said later.

While covering the tragedies in Sierra Leone accurately and in much detail, Quinones failed to mention a solution is being crafted. The solution, an international certification program that is supported by governments, human rights groups and the diamond and jewelry industry, has been proposed since July. Work continues to get the agreement of governments in mining, cutting and consuming centers to support the program through legislation and customs regulations.

Quinones allowed Congressman Tony Hall (D-OH), who has proposed legislation banning diamond imports from certain conflict countries, to explain his point of view. However, he cut off De Beers executive Tim Capon in mid-sentence as Capon tried to explain how De Beers now ensures it buys no diamonds that finance rebel activity in Sierra Leone. Quinones later said De Beers is just worried about bad publicity.

In addition, Quinones didn't update viewers about developments in the conflict diamond situation. He discussed the role President Charles Taylor of Liberia plays in conflict diamond trading with a Sierra Leone diamond dealer and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, but he never mentions that on Wednesday President Clinton banned Taylor and all other top Liberia government officials from entry to the U.S. because of their role in the conflict diamond trade.

Quinones ended his report with a Sierra Leonan amputee asking consumers not to buy diamonds "because diamonds are killing us." Quinones then told anchorpersons Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson he hopes the industry could "somehow" be convinced to stop trading these gems, ignoring stark evidence that the industry is working diligently to do so. However, the reporters did say a consumer boycott is not the answer. Instead, proper legislation needs to be passed, and Gibson promises to follow-up on the story later this year.

- by Peggy Jo Donahue