4.4 THE PRESS
The media also play an important role in human rights work.
Individuals and NGOs often gain attention for their causes
through TV, radio and newspaper reports. In a free, democratic
society the media are meant to be the watchdogs who speak
out when the state misuses its power. It is important that
a society has a wide variety of media so that the population
can gain information and an understanding of how society works
from several sources.
When the media report about and focus on something that has
gone wrong, both politicians and ordinary people become aware
of the problem. This can often lead to the people putting
pressure on the politicians and authorities to rectify problems
and make changes. Unfortunately, all too often politicians
and authorities are aware of problems but do not do anything
about them until they "have to", and they often
do not feel they "have to" until the attention being
paid to a problem starts to have a negative effect and the
focus turns on them personally.
It is important for human rights organisations to have good
relationships with journalists so that they can write about
topical cases. There are innumerable examples around the world
of where the lives of individuals and groups have changed
for the better after the media has focused on problems and
got the authorities to change their policies.
Being a journalist can be dangerous, as can writing or talking
about human rights violations in some countries. Some people
in power do not like their policies being criticised in a
way that focuses negative attention on them. At any given
time, many journalists and writers are in prison because they
have criticised the authorities' policies.