Media for Human Rights: The Power of Human Rights Education – HRC25

On March 17th, 2014, the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning facilitated a public workshop titled, “Media for Human Rights: The Power of Human Rights Education” at the Human Rights Council in Palais des Nations.

The media is a powerful actor because it has the ability to inform the public on the injustices in society and raise awareness on unfamiliar or hidden issues. The goal of the session was to discuss how the media and journalists can increase their contributions in promoting human rights in their work. The workshop consisted of group discussions on what challenges journalists face, what types of human rights education activities would strengthen their capacity to report, and what other partners should be involved in the process.

Berhane Ras-Work, Board Member of the International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples, discussed how undemocratic governments control the media and often curtail freedom of expression. Raising awareness on human rights violations is essential to social cohesion and peace-building, Ras-Work reiterated. This suggestion correlates with GWI’s dedication to educating girls and women on their human rights to empower them in their private and public lives.

Censorship is a serious challenge for journalists, especially those working in conflict zones. There may be physical constraints to access certain areas, with governments often controlling what can and cannot be published. Another difficulty is that journalists are working under revenue driven media and there is growing competition to win audiences. This means there is incentive to repeat what sells and editors will not risk assigning complex, human rights stories that need more resources and time to investigate.

There are multiple human rights education activities that can assist journalists. For example, educators of journalism can add to their curriculum the importance of human rights. Or, policy briefings can be distributed by NGOs and media institutions to teach journalists and policymakers to include human rights in the media. There can also be awards or scholarships rewarded to journalists to increase their incentive on covering human rights. Training citizen journalists so that they can report on human rights issues they witness is also beneficial.

The partners that can be involved in this process include NGOs that defend and promote the rights of journalists. GWI and the NFAs can help educate journalists through writing policy briefings and helping disseminate information among the members. Local authorities can also contribute to defending journalists because they are better familiar with the human rights violations in the specific region. Policymakers can play a pivotal role in ensuring there are effective laws to protect the safety of journalists, which would encourage reporters to cover more human rights stories.

The report gathered from this workshop will be submitted to the OHCHR to supplement the drafting of a plan of action for the third phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.