Human Rights Journalism: Advances in Reporting Distant by Ibrahim Seaga Shaw

By Ibrahim Seaga Shaw

Shaw argues that journalism should still specialize in deconstructing the underlying structural and cultural motives of political violence equivalent to poverty, famineandhuman trafficking,and play a proactive (preventative), instead of reactive (prescriptive) function in humanitarian intervention.

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For example, Attorney General John Ashcroft supported the decision to instruct government departments to refuse to supply information to the media (Dadge, 2006). Furthermore, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was on record as having warned journalists that any criticism of their administration would be taken to mean aiding the ‘terrorists’. It was therefore not surprising that, during the war in Iraq, in the spring of 2003 alone, 16 journalists, including translators and support staff, ‘provided both the ink and their blood’.

3 Moreover, added to the list of casualties in the media was truth; truth, like free speech, and by extension human rights, gave way to patriotism following 9/11. A new alliance of willing fighters against terrorism rallied behind the US. Countries such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which hitherto were seen by the west as rogue states on account of the mass violation of their peoples’ rights, including free speech, were suddenly welcomed into this new alliance, while Russia turned a blind eye to similar violations in its satellite state of Chechnya, and by Ethiopia in Somalia.

The challenge is how twenty-first century journalism can narrow the divide between the many pledges of human rights principles often made by world leaders and what happens on the ground. Human rights journalism, I argue, has the potential to address this gap. This chapter is structured into three sections: exposing human rights abuses; free speech and human rights; and human rights journalism. 1 Exposing human rights abuses Since journalists are often the first to bear witness to, and to report, serious human rights abuses, it is frequently their work that mobilises state actors to investigate.

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