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Reporting Human Rights


Susana Sampaio-Dias

Reporting Human Rights provides a systematic examination of human rights news and reporting practices from inside the world of television news production.

From an interdisciplinary perspective, the book discusses the potential of journalism in contributing to human rights protection, awareness and debate, in ignoring, silencing or misrepresenting human rights issues around the world or, in extreme situations, in inciting hatred, genocide and crimes against humanity. It provides insight into how journalists translate human rights issues, revealing different reporting patterns and levels of detail in reporting, and suggesting different levels of engagement with human rights problems.

The book explains the most important factors that encourage or limit the coverage of human rights news. Grounded in a close examination of the news production processes and key moments where possible human rights stories are contemplated, decided or eventually ignored, the book opens up new insights into the complexities and constraints of human rights reporting today.

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Chapter 3. Human Rights and News Production Processes


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The influence of sociology and anthropology on journalism and media research became particularly pronounced in the 1970s and was accompanied by the inclusion of cultural issues as determining factors in the news process. This shift occurred alongside the introduction of qualitative techniques such as ethnography and discourse analysis within research (Wahl-Jorgensen & Hanitzcsh, 2009). The sociology of journalism argues that the news media are shaped by social, political, economic, and technological elements, much like the traditional sociology of work. Numerous ethnographic studies (Breed, 1955; Tuchman, 1972; and Epstein, 1973, among others) have provided evidence for the understanding of news production as a process that is influenced by several elements.

This chapter serves to connect the previous chapters with the second part of this book, which offers an empirical case study of human rights reporting and journalism practices. Divided into three main sections, the chapter begins by introducing the ideology of objectivity and ethical standards as one key justification for different understandings and professional performance regarding human rights issues. The second section examines the principal news values, constraints, and limitations for human rights reporting. The third and final section explains the procedural difficulties in examining human rights in the ← 49 | 50 → news from a research perspective, summarises existing research, and presents a theoretical background for the argument that human rights are reported at different levels of depth.

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