Quality communication requires respect for human rights

June, 2023 – The Communication and Human Rights Meeting: Communicating from Responsibility and Respect, organized by VioDemos in collaboration with the Center for Justice and Society Studies at UC and the Millennium Institute for Data Foundations, took place on Thursday, June 8th at the San Joaquín Campus.

The event featured Daniela Fernández, a journalist from the Promotion and Education Unit of the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH), and the panel discussion, led by Camila Díaz, Director of Research and Academic Training at the Millenium Institute Foundational Research on Data, included Ignacio López, a professor from the UC School of Communications, Magdalena Browne, Dean of the School of Communications at the Adolfo Ibáñez University, and Roberto Herrscher, Director of the Journalism Excellence Award at the Alberto Hurtado University.

The first part of the event included the presentation of the Portable Manual of Communication and Human Rights by the INDH, while the second part consisted of a dialogue on “Why Communicate with a Human Rights Approach?”

INDH Workshop: Diversity of Voices and Alerts against Hate Speech Daniela Fernández

Comunicación y Derechos HumanosDaniela Fernández, a journalist from the Promotion, Education, and Participation Unit of the National Institute of Human Rights, began the first session with the presentation of the Portable Manual of Communication and Human Rights. This tool provides guidance for communicating and informing with relevance and a rights-based approach.

The objective of this guide, aimed at journalists, students, communicators, and anyone interested in the field, is to promote a culture of respect for human rights in the country. It addresses basic principles such as equality and non-discrimination, citizen participation, and freedom of expression.

“Why is it important to talk about this?” Fernández asked the audience. “We need to realize our role in promoting human rights. As communication professionals, we not only inform but also have an impact on communities by addressing their rights through the content we create and disseminate.”

According to Daniela, the INDH Portable Manual is based on four principles: equality and non-discrimination; treating everyone equally regardless of variables and contexts, participation; ensuring everyone has the opportunity to participate in their communities, non-regression; not rolling back the rights we have already achieved, and pro-person; the State must ensure that our rights are not violated.

Regarding the right to freedom of expression, does it have limits? How and when can it be limited? “In our daily practice, we can and should set limits,” says Fernández. According to the Inter-American Human Rights System and the United Nations (UN), freedom of expression has clear boundaries in three situations:

  • When it promotes hate and violence
  • When it jeopardizes national order and security
  • When it undermines the dignity and honor of individuals

In this sense, although everyone should respect human rights, it is the responsibility of the State to guarantee them and the only entity that can directly or indirectly violate them, including its agents. “It is the duty of the State to demand and guarantee human rights, preventing, investigating, sanctioning, and repairing when they have been violated,” explains the journalist.

So what can we, as communicators, do in terms of our content and editorial decisions? We can identify issues of broad public interest, trigger latent positive values in our audiences, choose images carefully, provide truthful and critical information, include diverse voices, and communicate for everyone with accessibility in mind.

What is the role of journalism and communication in promoting democracy and human rights?

Comunicación y Derechos HumanosIn the second part of the event, the dialogue “Why Communicate with a Human Rights Approach?” took place, addressing the role of communicators in the current context marked by polarization, misinformation, and fake news.

Magdalena Browne, Dean of the School of Communications at the Adolfo Ibáñez University, pointed out that in a modern society, “democracy and media go hand in hand because, beyond the fourth estate, society requires information. And in turn, the media needs democracy because its role is based on safeguarding the right to information.”

However, according to the academic, this is a role that society does not necessarily recognize. The current communication landscape is different from what it was years ago: we now see a phenomenon of disintermediation (information is disseminated through channels beyond traditional media), an oversaturation of content, sensationalism, and fake news. “Therefore, those of us working in communications must constantly build and earn that social role granted to us. Given these circumstances, we cannot take it for granted.”

Journalism faces multiple challenges concerning human rights. “To me, this profession has a series of attributes: being committed to the truth, investigating facts, embracing plurality of voices. It should question stereotypes, discuss the uses and abuses of words, and ask why certain topics are overrepresented while others are glaringly silent,” stated Roberto Herrscher, Director of the Journalism Excellence Award at the Alberto Hurtado University.

In the context of the “security crisis” that has dominated the political and media agenda, Herrscher emphasized, “Today it seems that rights are only for honest citizens, ‘the good ones,’ and ‘criminals’ cannot access those rights. It resembles what Pinochet used to say, disregarding the fact that human rights belong to everyone, and it is the State’s responsibility to guarantee them. I believe we need to redefine the concept of human rights, which prevailed in a generation of free journalism after dictatorships.”

In this regard, journalistic ethics come into play, highlighted Ignacio López, professor at the UC School of Communications. “As journalists, we have an impact on society, and we must be attentive to how we may violate collective rights through our words.” One example he highlighted is the challenge of stereotypes, which can affect people’s dignity. “It doesn’t just involve physical violence; it is also symbolic. Stereotypes provide a very partial truth, presenting highly unjust portions of reality.”

Despite this, the academic sees hope in the younger generations: “I feel that young people are embracing and showing enthusiasm for human rights. Many times people avoid this topic, considering it too politicized. However, among students, I do see a general change in questioning the challenges of communications. Additionally, I believe the audience is now holding us accountable and has spaces for oversight that we didn’t have before.”

Source: Viodemos

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