“The paradox is that the Western media often cover human rights issues close to home thoroughly—the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, for instance, or questions of child abuse and racism—yet these media often do not make the link that place these stories within the context of an international regime of human rights standards and national responsibility.” (115)

The biggest takeaway from “Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Reporting on Human Rights” is an understanding of context. Throughout the paper’s conclusion, journalists’ need for a better understanding of what constitutes human rights, and how it applies both home and abroad, plays a major role in bettering effective reporting.

Finding the context of human rights violations does, in fact, require some sort of expertise in my opinion, contrary to what some like Matt Charney say in the conclusion (113). Some sort of specific knowledge is necessary to report on issues like refugees, in my case, so that ignorance and drama are not the center points of the story. A concerted effort to explain the scope and fundamental problems with the human rights violation must require some familiarity with the topic.

I think the distinction made between covering and reporting human rights stories made in the conclusion is vital to a better understanding of the problem facing journalists writing about human rights violations. The reduction of time, personnel, and interest in human rights issues has led to pure facts being presented without an in depth look into the context or scope of the story.

“In general, in addressing human rights issues, the media should pay particular attention to context and terminology” (120)

The recommendation that strikes me as the most useful encourages professional groups and schools to exchange information and views with human rights organizations (118). I think that this sort of discussion would allow professional journalists to develop an expertise on the subject, as well as a network of involved activists to contact to create a greater depth for the context they need for their story. Reporters must better understand local conditions, in order to develop more varied and diverse sources for these stories.

For my own topic, I think that context is fairly limited currently, since most refugee coverage is focused in Syria, an area where on-the-ground reporting is limited to refugee camps and a deep analysis of the situation inside Syria is difficult to ascertain. March 15th marked the 4 year anniversary of the conflict that has forced nearly 3.5 million people into refugee status. Organizations around the world focused on covering these individuals over the last week and many had a similar approach, focusing on the numbers and sheer size of the refugee population, rather than the causes for the flood of fleeing Syrians.

The Guardian, though, posted a small listicle of sorts called “12 ways to ensure a more secure future for Syria’s refugees” that offered information from experts in government and human rights organizations. Their coverage bridges the gap between the human rights community and journalists, providing both expertise and context to the situation.

The New York Times also offers more in-depth coverage and provides context to both the past and present situations of individual refugees, using examples to provide context and localization to the story. By mixing first person accounts, studies, and reporting in the area, the Times offers the fullest picture of the situation, in a limited space. The story allows minimal sensationalism while still showing the emotion and heartbreak of the human rights violations.

Both stories show that with context and interaction with human rights organizations, a more developed story can replace generalization and sensationalism.


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