Posts Tagged ‘media’

Media have critical role in breaking silence on violence against women

November 23, 2019

Swapna Majumdar wrote in the Daily Pioneer of 22 November 2019 “Don’t muzzle their voices”  about what role the media can play in the discourse on violence against women, human rights and empowerment?  Can it help survivors? How can the media be leveraged to change perceptions and end gender-based violence?

These are some of the questions that came up at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD+25) Summit held in Nairobi recently. A session focussed on the importance of the media in either shifting or perpetuating attitudes toward  gender-based violence in the context of the ICPD. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/16-days-of-activism-against-gender-based-violence-start-on-25-november-2019/]

“Violence against women is a human rights violation. Violence is about silencing us and the media is about breaking the silence. The media has a critical role to see that this silence is broken and women’s voices are amplified,” said Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia. … However, the persistence of social stereotyping and social attitudes towards women prevented them from seeking help and services. This is where the media can help as it continues to play a crucial role globally in key conversations. The way gender-based violence (GBV) is covered and reported in the news media can influence the way our communities perceive the issue,” she said.

Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, an award-winning journalist from Samoa, agreed. “The media is a powerful tool in fighting GBV because they not only report on society but help shape public opinion and perceptions,” she contended. The Chief Editor of JiG, Jackson said that the language used by the media was critical and it had to be careful not to normalise sexual harassment, objectify women or blame survivors. Studies have shown that gender inequalities tend to get reinforced by media content that contributes to the normalisation of sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence. There is a tendency to reproduce stereotypes that associate violence by men as a symbol of their masculinity and power. Many news reports of violence against women tend to represent women as victims and as responsible for the violence.

Unfortunately, this is what has happened in Syria, according to Jafar Irshaidat, communications specialist, UNFPA, Syria. “We found that the media could play a harmful role in generating stereotyping and perpetuating certain myths about GBV. Their news reports also harmed survivors directly by disclosing their identities and shifting the blame away from the perpetrators. So we are working with the media on how they can change the narrative,” he said. This is where women journalists are making the difference.  In India, one of the important examples of how the media used its influence to impact positive change was seen by the reportage, by women journalists in particular, around the Delhi gang-rape in December 2012. This led to public mobilisation and the enactment of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013. This mandated the compulsory filing of First Information Reports (FIRs) in police stations, something that was neglected earlier. It also criminalised various kinds of attacks on women, including stalking, acid attacks and stripping.

“Women journalists have made significant contribution to changing the narrative and defending human rights through their reporting on gender-based violence,” stated Krishanti Dharmaraj, Executive Director, Centre for Women in Global Leadership (CWGL).  The CWGL, a global women’s rights organisation based out of Rutgers University is the founder and coordinator of the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’, an international campaign used by activists around the world to eliminate of all forms of GBV.

“Women journalists who cover stories about gender-based violence are human rights defenders in their own right. They often face challenges, including misogynistic attacks online and offline, as a result of their work. “They also face the challenge of dealing with their own trauma as they help another girl or woman secure justice,” says Sarah Macharia, Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP). The GMMP is the largest and longest-running research and advocacy initiative on gender equality in the world’s news media.

Implemented collaboratively with grassroots and national-level women’s rights groups, other civil society organisations, associations and unions of media professionals, university students and researchers around the world, the GMMP aims to advance gender equality in and through the media by gathering evidence on disparities in portrayal, representation and voice of women compared to men.

The latest GMMP study showed a decline in stories that focussed on gender violence, including issues such as rape, sexual assault, family violence, female genital mutilation and trafficking. At the same time, there were progressively higher proportions of women as sources in GBV stories.

“In 2005, women were 38 per cent of the people seen, heard or spoken about in the stories, compared to 46 per cent in 2015, a rise of almost 10 points in 10 years. At least three quarters of those who experience gender-based violence are women and yet, they constitute less than one half of people interviewed or are the subject of these stories,” said Sarah Macharia, GMMP coordinator. However,  even women journalists are reporting fewer of the stories. Macharia pointed out that in 2010, women journalists reported 41 per cent of the stories, compared to 30 per cent in 2015, a fall of 11 per cent in five years.

Last year, a survey conducted by the International Women’s Foundation and Troll Busters found women journalists, who experienced online abuse, reported short-term and long-term emotional and psychological effects. About 40 per cent had avoided reporting certain stories as a result of these incidents.

In India, the #MeToo movement has been a catalyst to tackle GBV violence in the media with many women journalists coming out to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment. However, hardly any media organisation has provided physical security, legal advice and psychological support to women journalists affected by sexual violence and sexual harassment.

Women journalists face a triple risk:  Risk as every other woman; the same risks as their male colleagues and risks that impact them specifically because they are women journalists. Unless impunity for attacks on women journalists ends, these risks will continue to impact their work.

https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/columnists/don—t-muzzle-their-voices.html

Russia’s “foreign agents” bill goes in overdrive

November 19, 2019

Multimedia campaigns can help prevent gender-based violence in Pakistan

November 1, 2019

The report below was published in Dawn. It shows that thinking about multimedia tools in the struggle against gender-based violence is alive and well at the ground level where it matters most:

Speakers at the Media Conference in Peshawar on Thursday 17 October 2019 called for the resolution of the issues of media persons to enable them to effectively play their role as human rights defenders. The event titled ‘media, gender and right to service’ highlighted the significance of different mediums of media and stressed the need for their use for the eradication of sexual and gender-based violence and change in the people’s attitudes towards social issues through better awareness.

It was organised by Blue Veins in collaboration with the Peshawar Press Club and Right to Public Service Commission. Provincial anti-harassment ombudsperson Rukhshanda Naz said gender-based violence was one of the most prevalent human rights abuses. She said journalists could play a fundamental role in highlighting the voice of the people, whose rights were violated. Ms Naz said media could help highlight interventions and change attitudes, practices and behaviours, which drove violence against women.

Chief Commissioner of the Right to Public Services Commission Mohammad Mushtaq Jadoon said the media was playing the role of an ‘agenda setter’, which could easily disseminate information and influence public opinion. He said the use of modern media tactics could promote human rights.

Programme coordinator of Blue Veins Qamar Naseem said media was one of the pillars of power to influence public attitudes and social structure. He said the government and non-government service providers were struggling to improve response services to gender-based violence, so they needed to become skilled at engaging journalists in their coordinated efforts as an integral part of advocacy.

Journalists Aqeel Yousafzai and Waseem Ahmad called for the adoption of multimedia engagement approach. They said an intensive multimedia campaign would help reduce and prevent gender-based violence and ensure that the survivors have safe and improved access to services.

Chairman of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Peshawar, Dr Faizullah Jan said to improve the role of media towards better understanding of gender roles, social attitudes and root causes of gender-based violence, there was a need for ensuring adequate capacity development and sensitisation for effective media reporting on gender-based violence issues.

General secretary of Khyber Union of Journalists Mohammad Naeem said such events could suggested actions to policymakers and the media for advocating a stronger legal and regulatory environment to support voluntary, equitable and rights-based programmes. The conference also contributed into the signing of a statement by media representatives promising commitment to addressing sexual and gender-based violence in collaboration with provincial and national stakeholders.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1511475

Russian human rights defenders try technology and gaming innovations

September 13, 2019

Tatiana Tolsteneva has written in Global Rights of 12 September, 2019 a very interesting piece about wether technology and gaming innovations can bring new life to Russian NGOs and appeal to younger audiences. Tatiana Tolsteneva has 10 years of managing experience in the Russian non-profit sector, with a focus on human rights defenders initiatives. She has a Master’s degree in Law from Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod (UNN) and is finalizing her Master’s Degree in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the London School of Economics. It is long read but contains some fascinating insights:

While there is significant debate over foreign funding issues and closing civic space in Russia, a key problem of the Russian non-profit sector is its “catch-up” form of development. Due to limited resources, this sector develops much more slowly than media or information technologies, for example. In Team 29, an informal association of lawyers and journalists, we are trying to change this, primarily by introducing new media technologies in the non-profit sector.

Lawyers of Team 29 are known not only for taking up cases considered hopeless in which the state accuses people of crimes against national security, but also for seeking so-called “justice in Russian.” That is, fighting for a sentence below the lower limit established by the Criminal Code or for a pardon by the president. In a country in which acquittals account for only 0.02% of total cases, this is considered a success.

In addition, our journalists have developed a niche media resource covering a wide range of issues regarding the relationships of citizens and the Russian government. The Team advises citizens on what actions to take if subjected to searches or questioning, how to find information in governmental databases, and how to protect one’s private data. Through this work, Team 29 is changing the concept of what a human rights activist in Russia can be, and we seek to explain the complexities of this work. The main problem of human rights defenders in Russia for a long time was separation from “ordinary people”. The positioning, language, and public image of human rights defenders were such that average citizens did not understand what human rights workers were doing and how it related to them. Team 29 was one of the first human rights organizations to adopt modern explanatory journalism techniques to strengthen communication with its target audience. In other words, we started to translate from “legal” to “human” language, and to make our materials more engaging to win the online struggle for reader attention.

The positioning, language, and public image of human rights defenders were such that average citizens did not understand what human rights workers were doing and how it related to them. 

In 2015, we joined our legal skills with explanatory journalism technologies in order to develop what are now called “legal handouts”. These are texts providing legal advice, in plain language, mostly on how to deal with unexpected clashes with Russian law enforcement. For example, the handouts explain a person’s rights and how citizens can protect themselves from mistakes often related to lack of knowledge. Each handout has had an average of 100,000 views, and work on these handouts resulted in the subsequent creation of Team 29’s online mini-media resource. Its average monthly attendance amounts to at least 50,000 unique visitors.

The problem in these developments was that the major audience of Team 29’s media projects was people between 25-44 years old, while it is the Y generation—people younger than 25—that has been a driving force of socio-political processes in Russia. For example, this younger age category of Russian citizens has been the one most actively involved in the public mass protests of recent years.

We made it a goal to reach out to that audience with mobile games, which have a huge audience in that demographic and can be played offline. In fact, pro-social games—games with grounded social impact—are an advanced tool in media and non-profit fields abroad. But until now, there have been no such games in Russia.

To develop this new game in Russia, we had to decide what software could be developed with limited resources. We chose “text quests” since they are the least expensive for production and easy in their mechanics. Text quests are a type of game in which interaction with the player is through textual information. The plot of the quest is not rigidly fixed and can change depending on the actions of the player. An important aspect of a text quest is story-telling; we tried to make the plot of our quest fascinating for the player, based on real events, and causing empathy for the main character.

Gebnya is a mobile text quest game that tells users how to communicate with the police and security services in Russia.

The result is Gebnya, a mobile text quest game that tells users how to communicate with the police and security services in Russia, and how to protect oneself, one’s family, and one’s information. The Android version of the app was released on October 6, 2017, and the iOS version on April 18, 2018. At present, the game has been downloaded more than 70,000 times, and the majority of its audience (57%) are people younger than 24. However, less than 15% of users are women.

We also have found that mobile apps can be a part of an alternative business model for human rights NGOs. We have received $1,020 through in-game payments, with most of this revenue (87%) being micro-payments ($1 or 100 rubles).

In the first version of the game, through the in-game payments, it was possible to take part in the crowdfunding of the development of new scenarios. In later versions, we added the ability to pay for the game without ads, as well as for additional gaming options, a standard business model for so-called free-to-play mobile games.

We believe that it can be more important to experiment with something new than to continue with traditional methods that may not be working. 

Once we established the demand for this type of game, we decided to expand it. First, we held a hackathon called “More Games Needed”, which helped non-profit projects of St.-Petersburg to create game software products of their own. A project dedicated to preventing domestic violence called Where Can Couplehood Lead won the hackathon and received mentorship from our experts. We expect the game to release in October 2019. We also intend to release another project together with the educational project Teplitsa (Greenhouse) – Technologies for Social Good.

Second, since Gebnya has currently attracted very few women, we decided to develop a game on problems important for women in Russia and the post-Soviet space. The game dedicated specifically to women’s issues is now under development, and its beta version should be released in November 2019. We decided to focus on three of the many problems faced by women in Russia: cyberbullying, stalking, and intimate partner violence. The game’s plot is designed to help recognize these phenomena, help build personal boundaries, and to get acquainted with legal and psychological defense tools and relevant professional assistance centers.

Team 29 plans to continue this pro-social game development as a project separate from our journalistic and legal work, and we are currently working on additional games with a number of other Russian NGOs.

While developing Gebnya in 2017, we were in fact rather skeptical about the project’s prospects, but we decided to pursue it anyway. We believe that it can be more important to experiment with something new than to continue with traditional methods that may not be working. After all, the non-profit sector cannot survive without innovations.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/technology-and-gaming-innovations-bring-new-life-to-russian-ngos/

See also other posts on communication: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/communication/

James Goldston adds voice to debate on future of the human rights movement

August 21, 2019

, Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative and previously in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, wrote on 20 August 2019 an opinion piece in ‘Balkan Insight’ entitled: Illiberal Populism: A Wake-Up Call for Human Rights”. His conclusion is that human rights defenders need to up their game but be under no illusion that they alone can defend liberal values. “The battle against illiberal populism will ultimately be won in the arenas of politics and power — in voting booths, legislative offices, the media and the streets.
The criticisms – although overblown especially by populist leaders – contain truth, and they lead to clear prescriptions, says Goldston: We must pay more attention to economic suffering. We must relearn how to speak less like lawyers and more like people. And we must work more collaboratively with like-minded groups that don’t identify themselves as rights defenders, but whose contributions — whether through science, technology, economics, or the arts — can foster rights awareness.

Some of this is happening, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/05/amnesty-internationals-global-assembly-2019-deserves-more-attention-big-shifts-coming-up/

.. But rolling back reactionary politics worldwide requires not just rights activism but also deeper engagement in political debate and elections. That’s a task not just for the rights movement, but for everyone.The author notes that although annual philanthropic funding for “human rights and social justice” has increased worldwide in recent years, it remains under $3 billion. {and human rights defenders a tiney partof that, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/18/important-report-to-help-you-understand-human-rights-grantmaking/]

……

Illiberal Populism: A Wake-Up Call for Human Rights

Magsaysay Awards 2019 honor 5 outstanding Asians

August 3, 2019

The Ramon Magsaysay Award, one of Asia’s best known prizes, celebrates transformative leadership. In the past five decades, the award has been bestowed on over three hundred men, women and organizations whose selfless service has offered their societies, Asia, and the world successful solutions to some of the most intractable problems of human development. For more on this regional award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ramon-magsaysay-award-for-community-leadership] The trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation annually select the awardees. The Award is presented to them in formal ceremonies in Manila, Philippines on August 31st, the birth anniversary of the much-esteemed Philippine President whose ideals inspired the Award’s creation in 1957.

The winners for 2019 are:

Kim, Jong-ki, South Korea

  • In 1995, Kim Jong-ki was a highly successful businessman handling market operations in China for a giant Korean electronics company.  Married, with a son and daughter, he was at the height of his career when tragedy struck.
  • In the year his son died, Jong-ki established the Foundation for Preventing Youth Violence (FPYV), the first organized effort in South Korea to address school violence as a systemic social problem affecting students, families, schools, and the community-at-large.
  • The impact of Jong-ki and FPYV on Korean society has been profound, establishing a nationwide presence and creating collective action on a social problem hitherto neglected.
  • In electing Kim Jong-ki to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his quiet courage in transforming private grief into a mission to protect Korea’s youth from the scourge of bullying and violence, his unstinting dedication to the goal of instilling among the young the values of self-esteem, tolerance, and mutual respect, and his effectively mobilising all sectors of the country in a nationwide drive that has transformed both policy and behaviours towards building a gentler, non-violent society.

Kumar, Ravish, India

  • In 1996, he joined New Delhi Television Network (NDTV), one of India’s leading TV networks and worked his way up from being a field reporter. After NDTV launched its 24-hour Hindi-language news channel — NDTV India — targeting the country’s 422 million native speakers of Hindi, he was given his own daily show, “Prime Time.”
  • As an anchor, Ravish is sober, incisive, and well-informed.  He does not dominate his guests but affords them the chance to express themselves.  He does not balk, however, at calling the highest officials to account or criticizing media and the state of public discourse in the country; for this reason, he has been harassed and threatened by rabid partisans of one kind or another.
  • Ravish has been most vocal on insisting that the professional values of sober, balanced, fact-based reporting be upheld in practice.
  • In electing Ravish Kumar to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards; his moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity, and independence; and his principled belief that it is in giving full and respectful voice to the voiceless, in speaking truth bravely yet soberly to power, that journalism fulfills its noblest aims to advance democracy.

Neelapaijit, Angkhana, Thailand

  • In 2006, with the help of non-government organizations and her own family, Angkhana founded Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF), a network of human rights and peace advocates that has done important work in documenting the human rights situation in southern Thailand, thus raising public awareness and putting pressure on government to act on human rights cases, providing legal assistance to victims; and training women on human rights and the peace process.
  • In 2015, Angkhana was named commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand,  the only Commission member with grassroots human rights experience.
  • In her soft-spoken and measured tone she asserts: “Most women experience conflict and violence in a different way than men.
  • In electing Angkhana Neelapaijit to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes her unwavering courage in seeking justice for her husband and many other victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand; her systematic, unflagging work to reform a flawed and unfair legal system, and the shining proof she is that the humblest ordinary person can achieve national impact in deterring human rights abuses.

Ko Swe Win, Myanmar

https://www.rmaward.asia/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/KSW-Official-2-300x300.png

  • Such a journalist is 41-year-old Ko Swe Win.  Born to a poor family in Yangon, he grew up in politically turbulent times and fell victim to state repression early on.
  • In 2017, he criticized a powerful, ultranationalist Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu, for purveying “hate speech” and publicly commending the killer of a Muslim human rights activist.  Wirathu, Swe Win wrote, had desecrated Buddhism and should be punished for endorsing assassination and fomenting hate.
  • Swe Win and Myanmar Now draw strength from the fact that they are making a difference.  With a current readership of 350,000, the news service is highly regarded for the quality, balance, and depth of its reporting on high-impact issues, including land grabbing, child labor, and abuse of domestic workers.
  • In electing Ko Swe Win to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his undaunted commitment to practice independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism in Myanmar; his incorruptible sense of justice and unflinching pursuit of the truth in crucial but under-reported issues; and his resolute insistence that it is in the quality and force of media’s truth-telling that we can convincingly protect human rights in the world. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

The fifth award winner is Mr Cayabyab, 65, who was recognised for “his compositions and performances that have defined and inspired Filipino popular music across generations”.

http://festival.rmaf.org.ph/?page_id=35

Positive communication is the (only) way forward for effective human rights work!

May 30, 2019

For a human rights movement dedicated to exposing abuses, positive communication does not come naturally. But to make the case for human rights, we need to promise a brighter future” says Thomas Coombes – head of brand and deputy director of communications at Amnesty International – in a piece in Open Global Rights of 19 February 2019. I have perhaps also contributed to the gloom with many posts about the decline of the international guman rights regime [with some more constructive posts e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/26/barbara-von-ow-freytag-argues-well-for-a-new-communication-based-approach/ ]. I think rightly Thomas argues: “to break this cycle and sell hope to the media, we need two things: challenging ideas and surprising stories“. Please read the full (short) piece:

For a human rights movement dedicated to exposing abuses, positive communication does not come naturally. We in the human rights community are driven by a desire to make known the suffering and injustice we see in the world, yet what people need from us is not information about what is going wrong, but hope and a means of making it better.

To make the case for human rights, we need to promise a brighter future. At Amnesty International we have a saying: better to light a candle than curse the darkness. But in the human rights movement, we spend a lot more time cursing the darkness. We want to expose terrible suffering so that people are shocked into action. But when we only show the abuses, people start to believe that we live in a world of crisis with no alternative. They accept that reality, give up, or turn to people who preach division, fear and a false sense of safety.

While the human rights movement will always have to expose abuses, we also need to give people a chance to unite behind a cause, challenge governments to live by their values and build support for our way of seeing the world. Hope-based communication is simply a smart strategy for shifting public opinion not by saying what is popular, but by making popular what needs to be said.

Hope-Based Communication is about illustrating what we want to see, not just what other people are doing. Because the human mind adapts easily to bad news, every dose of shock that we administer to the global conscience inoculates people. Without a tangible, believable alternative vision of how things should be, we risk reinforcing current rights abuses as a regrettable but inevitable reality.

Constant stories of crisis create an alarming picture of the world in our minds. When news is all about negative, sensational and exceptional events, it skews our view of other people, cultivates distrust and blinds us to important but unsurprising developments, as Rob Wijnberg, has argued in his manifesto for constructive news outlet The Correspondent. To break this cycle and sell hope to the media, we need two things: challenging ideas and surprising stories.

The environmental movement has already made that first step from dire warnings to big ideas that convince people that another world is possible. For example, in This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein writes about how promises of a bright green future offered a way forward: “What this part of the world has clearly shown is that there is no more potent weapon in the battle against fossil fuels than the creation of real alternatives.

The human rights movement must now do the same thing, and new research offers us a way to completely reframe the way we talk about human rights. For example, Amnesty International Australia now says “Bring them here” of refugees, rather than asking the government to stop treating them like criminals. Anat Shenker-Osorio’s linguistic analysis of how advocates in Australia, the UK and USA make the case for human rights shows that we talk about human rights as an object that is given to individuals, rather than a tool for people to improve their communities and live together. It encourages us to be more specific about power relations and use the language of journeys instead of war.

We want to take society on a journey to a better place, but when we lean heavily on the language of conflict: we fight, recruit, mobilise, resist, defend, protect and counter. We build coalitions. We wage campaigns. We seek to win battles. We ask people to take sides. This language is divisive—it won’t power a constructive, unifying movement. Instead, we need to talk about building, growing and sticking together.

Research from the Common Cause Foundation shows that altruism is as great a motivator to good causes as self-interest, if not more. Successful movements are propelled forward by enthusiasm and passion. While Donald Trump united his base with the simple red baseball cap, ordinary people demanding women’s rights queued for hours to buy “Together for Yes” buttons in Ireland and thronged the streets wearing green scarves in Argentina.

More and more research points to the fact that fear and pessimism triggers conservative and suspicious views, while, hope and optimism tend to more liberal views. Joyful, inspiring content like Planned Parenthood’s Unstoppable campaign serves not just to inspire, it creates political momentum. Anger mobilizes, hope organizes.

New approaches to stories about people seeking refuge highlight not what they flee but what they create in their new home, how the act of welcome transforms the host, or the power of friendships that face adversity and politics.

The stories we tell become our reality, so we need stories of humanity and compassion, reinforcing the idea that human rights are about people standing up for each other

How do we talk about hope and opportunity when human rights defenders are under attack and we need to defend ourselves, to fight back? How can we be positive when it is our duty to document despair?

Human rights defenders have “long been on the front line”, as Kathryn Sikkink argues in Dejusticia’s Playbook for Human Rights Actors. She warns that the frame of crisis and peril inadvertently harms perceptions of the movement’s effectiveness and legitimacy.

The most urgent challenge is to rebrand what it means to do human rights. The space that we most need to create for civil society is a conscious space apart from today’s struggles in which we allow ourselves to envisage bold possibilities of a better world. Human rights should take pride in being the “slow change” movement, that brings about generational attitudinal and societal progress, offering the path out of the darkest times.


Check out this virtual guide for how you can make a shift towards hope based communications in your human rights work.


There is still a place for anger and sadness, if we balance them with a sense of how we make things better. For no matter how dark the story, there is always some glimmer of hope. And it is our job to kindle that flame. The darker the crisis, the more people exhausted by fear and anger will turn to extreme options. So, we have to give people what every human needs: hope. After all, you light a candle when it gets dark. Hope, like a candle, shines brightest in the dark.

the-future-of-human-rights-must-be-hopeful/

The EU Human Rights Defenders’ mechanism – a short overview

May 28, 2019

Many readers of this blog wil already follow ProtectDefenders.eu [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/27/10611/]. Still, for those who don’t here follows a short overview taken from a 31 May 2019 communication which gives an impressive tally of the last three year: 

Over the past three years, ProtectDefenders.eu – the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism implemented by a Consortium of international civil society organisations, has emerged as a solid, successful and crucial tool for at-risk human rights defenders, and as an increasingly referenced instrument within the international human rights defenders community. As per the three-years report, ProtectDefenders.eu has stepped up the practical support available to HRDs at risk and local human rights NGOs, and mobilised resources in favour of at least 30,018 defenders in a timely and comprehensive manner.

In a context marked by the increasing demand for support from human rights defenders operating in the most difficult contexts, ProtectDefenders.eu…

  • has granted emergency support to 1,402 human rights defenders at high risk, in order to implement security measures, such as emergency relocation, individual security, medical support, or legal support. Over the past three years, the countries from which the highest number of HRDs received support were Syria, Burundi, Honduras, Russia, China, Iran, and DRC.
  • has facilitated and funded temporary relocation programmes for 459 human rights defenders (and their families when needed) with the support of comprehensive accompaniment schemes within host institutions from all over the world. For this purpose, ProtectDefenders.eu has maintained and broadened the EU Temporary Relocation Platform, supported the creation of new host organisations and engaged as an essential counterpart for human rights defenders in need for relocation and for host organisations.
  • has expanded the capacitites of more than 173 local human rights organisations, communities, and groups operating in the most dangerous contexts, through funding (such as seed-funding, core-funding and lifeline support) and contributions to develop sensitive initiatives and capacity-building programmes.
  • has provided capacity-development and training for at least 6,673 defenders aimed at empowering them to better manage their own security and to develop effective stragies and action to help them advance their their work in defence of Human Rights.
  • has provided effective guidance and immediate responses to 2,600 human rights defenders thanks to direct access to the 24/7 hotline, the ProtectDefenders.eu single-entry points, and direct contact with the Secretariat.
  • has monitored the situation of at least 1,323 human rights defenders in the field, through 284 fact-finding and advocacy missions, trial monitoring, accompaniment, or visits to prison.has mobilised public and media attention, as well as political responses on more than 5,100 individual cases such as attacks or threats against defenders through appeals, letters or petitions:
  • has reached out to at least 4,289 of the less connected, most targeted and at-risk defenders around the world, through 60 initiatives, such as missions to remote areas.

ProtectDefenders.eu aims at reaching out to the less connected and particularly targeted defenders and these groups (such as Women Human Rights Defenders, LGBTI+ rights defenders, land and environment rights defenders, indigenous rights defenders, or defenders from remote areas) represent approximately 75% of the beneficiaries.

https://www.protectdefenders.eu/en/newsfeed.html#newsletter-article-288

Debate in Kenya: are human rights defenders always credible?

May 17, 2019

In Kenya (and other countries) there have been efforts in the media to cast doubt on credibility of human rights defenders, sometimes implying that they are just ‘guns for hire’, seek advantages for themselves or are bought to demonstrate. On 15 May2019  the Star in Kenya run an article on the topic:

Activists protest outside Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries over pollution

Activists protest outside Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries over pollution  Image: MAURICE ALAL

…However, sector players told the Star that while there are a few elements doing activism with ulterior motives and pursuing self-gratification, the movement in the country is sound, focused, selfless and professional. Popular activist Boniface Mwangi told the Star that “Kenyans suffer from Stockholm syndrome, falling in love with their oppressors and attacking those that fight for them”. “I find the notion of celebrity activism, mostly thrown at me, very offensive. I’m a pretty young person who is a photojournalist. I have been shot at, beaten, tortured and harassed many times while doing activism for causes that I don’t even benefit from,” he said on phone. He added, “In my latest arrest, the National Intelligence Service tracked me using my phone. That means they have all the information about me, including that of my alleged sponsors. They could have unleashed all this. All serious people who caused impact through their activism like Martin Luther King and Wangari Maathai were denigrated but praised later.”

Ndung’u Wainaina, a veteran human rights and governance activist, told the Star that rights activism in the country in the modern times is largely not based on foundational philosophy as was the case in the 80s and 90s. “It is true there are briefcase entities and individuals in the human rights defence world whose actions are not based on any value system or persuasion. They are out for self-gain,” Wainaina said. “There is a need for strong visionaries grounded on firm principles for effective activism,” he said. For example, he said, Prof Wangari Maathai became renowned as a crusader for environmental justice because of her consistency and ability to carve a niche for herself in that area.

But Al Amin Kimathi acknowledged that a pocket of dubious activism exists “but they are fringe, in a minority.” He said there are countless genuine activists pursuing issues that improve people’s lives at great personal cost. “Most of us earn our living doing all sorts of other things and put the earnings in our activism. That’s my situation. I work far away from media most of the time, giving myself as an example of so many colleagues,” he said, adding that the notion of celebrity activism is “a creation of the media obsessed with the stars.”

Hussein Khalid, the executive director of Haki Africa, a Coast-based human rights organisation, told the Star that the majority of activists in the country are driven by a passion for justice to the helpless rather than money and fame. “As a lawyer, I could make much more money and be more famous taking up big, high-profile cases. But I choose to remain at Haki Africa to serve the meek and poor in society,” he said. He dismissed the notion that most activists are shallow with a huge appetite for money and media attention.

Kenya National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders chairman Kamau Ngugi told the Star that like every sector, there are always rogue elements but “who are very few“. He said there has been a systematic agenda targeted at denigrating and criminalising the place of human rights activism and journalists in the country.

Demas Kiprono, campaign manager at Amnesty International, told the Star that genuine activism has been the cog for positive change and reforms in the country “which detractors are not happy about”. “The celebrity narrative is a counter-narrative created by those opposed to human rights in order to de-legitimise human rights work. They conveniently leave out the fact that activists have secured justice, dignity and a voice for the downtrodden in society,” he said.

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2019-05-15-celebrity-activists-tainting-image-say-human-rights-defenders/

Pulitzer prizes for courageous journalists in Myanmar and Philippines

April 16, 2019