In the context of war, human rights from left right and centre are with out a doubt under threat. Journalists are amongst facilitators in a war, not causing it but they are stakeholders, they are on the front line with soldiers and they experience the same horrors as civilians involved. A journalist’s input in a crisis situation can have equally positive and negative effects on that crisis in question.
Journalists have the power to adhere to protect a person’s human rights within a crisis. Reporters with a wide reach of readers who share stories that involve a clear violation of human rights can make a positive impact to victims of war.
The case of Fikret Alic is a complex one but it illustrates the seemingly positive impact a journalist can have on human rights. Journalists reporting in the time of the Bosnia and Hevegovina war shared with the world the happenings in that crisis. Not many people could fully understand the full extent and effects this war was having on the people, especially innocent civilians. People can read words from a paper but never fully relate to anything unless it really takes them aback, this is where the famous picture of Alic comes in.
People around the world were shocked to see such a disturbed violation of human rights when this picture was plastered all over the news medias. The war in BiH then became the most severe humanitarian crisis since World War II and people would have never have thought such atrocities were still occurring. Alic became the face of all the torture, mass extortion, rape and other horrible neglects to human rights.
This is where the media comes in. People in the camp believed by talking to the media they could be saved…and that did happen eventually. But not without extreme consequences. Alic’s felt fear, apprehension and relief at the journalists presence but he also recounts how nine men were killed for speaking the the journalists. That’s a clear negative out come for a journalists presence in a war zone.
The positive points of a journalist being in a crisis are that they offer a sort of support when someone shares their experience. It can be related to counselling. Also a clear positive outcome is as a journalist publishes a story they place a spotlight on human rights issues allowing the public to talk about those issues and rise to action.
In the same case study of Fikret Alic his human rights in a sense have been violated. For his whole life since that picture was taken, that image has haunted him and affected the way he lives. His sense of freedom as a person of anonymity has been taken away as well as his dignity. Years after his ordeal he still felt obliged to the media, like he owed it to them to participate in a tasteless article about his life and a recreation of his pain.
Journalists also put themselves in danger when coving human rights abuses, of 1054 media workers killed since 1992, 18% of those were killed while covering human rights.
A journalist has so much power, they reflect the happenings in society back to the society like human rights issues. Journalists have a moral obligation to promote human rights in every story, as a watchdog. Journalists have the power to warn people about threats to their freedom, security, livelihood and culture. Being aware of human rights allows a journalist to have a sound moral compass.