Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Reported Dangerous

The Telegraph has a new photo essay entitled 20 of The World's Most Dangerous Places. By "places" it means "countries".

Its emphasis of recently "hot" countries for newspaper reporting made me wonder about bias in the list.

Which countries did the Telegraph leave out? Which did it exaggerate? As a quick but incomplete answer I checked Wikipedia's list of countries by homicide rate.

Unreported by the Telegraph although remarkable in their homicide rate (at five times the list's average) were El Salvador, Sierra Leone, Honduras, and Venezuela. Brazil is also notable but it is currently fashionable for newspapers to emphasize its potential rather than its problems. Russia is 20th on Wikipedia's list, but in Soviet Russia we list you.

Which countries does the Telegraph exaggerate? Its photo essay features several countries with less than average homicide rates. Thailand is 35th on Wikipedia's list; Pakistan is 41st; Israel is 65th. It seems slightly insulting to include these countries. India is not on the Wikipedia list but this web page and this article agree on data placing India in the 50s on Wikipedia's list.

Two postscripts... First, there is older U.N. survey data available here. Second, the Wikipedia page also ranks Iraq first but does so by counting war deaths as normal homicides: the Iraq Body Count is reliable but includes all violent deaths and for an interesting contrast observe that for the past few months Baghdad has had a lower murder rate than New Orleans, Detroit, or Washington D.C.

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