Coverage of rights issues
By: Rabia Razzaque
ISLAMABAD: I am impressed with the number of news stories I am reading these days about human rights issues and that means that finally the media in Pakistan is giving this important subject the priority that it deserves.
We have seen effort being put into finding out stories about men and women from unprivileged backgrounds, who have tried to make a difference. The increased coverage is, perhaps, also partly due to the fact that governments and political leaders refer to human rights more often than they did in the past, both in their formal statements of policy and in political rhetoric. Public opinion has also evolved similarly.
Though journalists have expanded coverage of human rights issues into new areas, many human rights issues are under-reported. Issues that are less visible, or slow processes, are not often covered. Human rights are still taken largely to mean political and civil rights and the importance of economic, social and cultural rights is usually ignored.
The media misses stories, or dimensions of stories, especially when such omitted details relate to the government or other powerful interests. Issues that have a strong human rights element may be addressed extensively in a domestic context but are seldom categorised in terms of rights. Child abuse, refugees and immigration, unemployment, sexual and racial discrimination and a host of other issues that are the daily staple of the media are generally covered in a manner that tends to separate them from the general issue of human rights.
The media should keep in mind that reporting on human rights issues is itself a way of encouraging human rights activism. Human rights cover everything from the right to life and freedom from fear to the rights of minorities and of majorities, to a woman’s right not to be exposed to violence in the home, a child’s rights to an education, the right of people under arrest to be properly treated, the right to a fair trial, the right of people with disabilities to be respected as equal and so on.