INDEPENDENT MEDICO-LEGAL UNIT New Tactics Workshop 19-23 February 2007 Monrovia, Liberia ADVOCACY JOURNALISM AS A TOOL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION A Presentation by Victor Bwire, Media and Advocacy Officer Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) Kenya Advocacy Journalism TACTIC Using advocacy journalism for addressing torture and impunity in Kenya STRATEGY To promote advocacy against torture, professional and accountable administration of justice and address issues of impunity in Kenya TARGETS Target includes members of the public, the police, government decision Strategic goal To sensitize the media to understand human rights, monitor and report on human rights as a key responsibility, and build the capacity of media practitioners to campaign, advocate and lobby for respect for rule of law. Three Prolonged Approach The advocacy journalism approach is a critical part of a three-pronged tactic 1) Developing forensic evidence standards 2) Maintaining a network of competent lawyers to represent victims that IMLU uses to seek justice and compensation for torture victims and survivors; and 3) Advocacy journalism – media outreach to inform and motivate the public Objectives of the Advocacy Journalism aspect – Investigate, monitor and report on human rights violations – Engage the media in campaigning, advocating and lobbying for human rights respect – Encourage the media to confront impunity and public apathy concerning widespread human rights abuses. Expected Results The aim of the tactic was a transformation of the media culture and paradigms on human rights violations in Kenya to improve their performance and perceptions on the same by: – Researching, monitoring and reporting prominently on human rights violations as part of their editorial agenda – Encouraging public debates on human rights and increased dislike for the culture of impunity Background Kenya’s political history (colonial period) Period of political uncertainty – government resorted to torture to silence its critics (including the media) Currently, the nature and character of torture has changed – now the targets are the poor, women and children and rural dwellers that cannot access justice and the media. Since 2002, the new government initiated the process of transitional justice opening up the democratic and media space in the country Advocacy Journalism at work IMLU started using the statistics for policy reforms by releasing torture status reports to both, local and international media and human rights bodies. Continued media stories on the plight of inmates in Kenyan prisons led to the Government to introduce the Prison Open Door Policy in 2003. IMLU took advantage of the reformist government that had come to power and the liberalized media scene that saw the opening up of several private media houses and blossoming of alternative press to expose the sluggish judiciary and the insensitive prison Successful resolution of cases (e.g., victims released, monetary compensation obtained) How Advocacy Journalism works Regularly arrange meetings with media practitioners from various media houses Introduce cases and findings to the media contacts Reporters prepare a questionnaire on the case Advocacy officer provides information (i.e., information police refuse to divulge) Reporters make cross references with the police Reporters write or air the story Media reports trigger public debate on the issue and eventually impacts positively on policy change (i.e., making it easier for the allegations to be investigated and efforts to prosecute perpetrators) Privileged position of the media Channel of communication to the masses/wider population Access to law-makers and policy- makers Access to restricted places e.g. state offices Access to information How IMLU develops a case A case of human rights abuse comes to IMLU’s attention Rapid response action by visiting the site (police station, prison or any other place of detention, scene of crime, mortuary or hospital) IMLU staff establishes the next of kin or eyewitnesses who will provide contacts of the next of kin Consent by victim or kin for either treatment, post mortem and/or publicity is signed IMLU contacts journalists who are invited to the scene of crime for face-to-face interviews ALTERNATIVELY IMLU holds a press conference at its office and IMLU facilitates the media, eyewitnesses and journalists to attend along with the medical and legal experts and provides related background materials relevant to the case. Advocacy strategies useful to the media Media supplements Consistent focus on a particular issue e.g. torture Consistent coverage of public interest cases on human rights Media debates Press conferences Tips for human rights media reporting Ensure accuracy of facts. Do not sensationalize the issue because this is likely to distort facts State the laws and rights violated. This helps in human rights education of the public. Clearly state the nature of response by the Tips for human rights media reporting (continued) State the human rights organization acting on the case. This educates the public on where to seek help in case of violations in future Give a background of the general trend around the issue (e.g. statistics, past trends) Make follow-up coverage of the case/issue Observe media ethics Dealing with the Media Publication Lists Publication lists are maintained in a computer database with the appropriate software. Receiver lists This should include – Members of NGOs/stakeholders – Reporters and producers – Commentators – Analysts Dealing with the Media Pinpointing Issues which have to do with NGOs – Regular reading of newspapers/TV viewing/radio listening Presentation of NGO: Graphics – logo – Letterhead – Pre-printed envelopes, The logo, the formal name of the organization The telephone number, fax number, e-mail address, website The mailing address, slogan. Personalized Contact with Reporters informational meetings with reporters Media Communication Tools Press Releases/Press Statements Press Conferences/Press Interviews Phone communication with reporters Informational meetings with Media practitioners Advertising banner/background news on web-pages Letter for reporters/ editors/ publisher or commentaries Results Transformation of the media culture in terms of: Improved researching, monitoring and reporting on human rights has become part of the media editorial agenda Public participation in campaigning for human rights (such as commentaries and opinion stories) Kimani=the street boy case letter released after being locked in-blinded by a bullet. Case later dropped Kimani’s case-shot in down town Nairobi=treated and got compensated Wallace =Journalist=treated and compensated Challenges Mostly targets illiterate members of the society Depends on the good will and personal commitment of partners and network of professionals which is very unpredictable High Cost: IMLU foots the administration costs for these cases (the forensic work as well as the legal services) Challenges (continued) Legal System is slow: cases may take up to 5 to 10 years in the court system (this is what created the vital need for advocacy journalism) Very demanding work: It requires that I am traveling most of the time Re-traumatization of clients: Lessons Learnt/ Transferability IMLU’s three-pronged approach is highly mutually reinforcing – “one quarter each and together they make a whole” (pathologists, lawyers, journalists) Advocacy journalism is more than just media appearances; use alternative media, traditional/folklore, community outreach including focused group discussions, public lectures, etc. Many movements with considerable success have applied advocacy journalism (environmental movement, civil rights movement in the USA, etc), the tactic can be applied universally with minor modifications. Where laws prohibit freedom of expression, first step considerations could focus on policy advocacy and lobbying for the enactment of pro human rights laws.
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