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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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Human rights crises take place at any given moment and anywhere in the world. Some receive in-depth exposure in the media, while others are briefly mentioned, if covered at all. There are many reasons why certain human rights issues receive vastly more media attention than others. Consider, for example, two tragic events that occurred in the same week in January 2015: the shooting of 11 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by a self-proclaimed cell of Al-Qaeda terrorists, and the killing of 2,000 people—mostly women and children—in the village of Baga, in Northern Nigeria, by an army of Islamic extremists of Boko Haram. The first event sparked international outcry and solidarity, a trending hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, and a march, attended by world leaders, in the streets of Paris to express support for the victims and to demonstrate resilience against the attackers. The second event had no globally trending hashtag, no organised march, and almost no exposure in the news. Even in Nigeria, the Paris attacks received more media attention than the massacre in Baga.1 The events took place in disparate scenarios: the first in Paris, a global and central metropolis, and the second in Baga, an isolated, difficult-to-reach village. For Western audiences, the attacks in Nigeria felt incomprehensibly remote, whereas those in Paris felt shockingly ‘close to home’, visible and rare. Further, the deaths at the hands of Boko Haram have ← ix | x → become ‘distressingly common’ (Zuckerman, 2015) in an insurgency that has claimed over...

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