By Catherine Ageno
The media in Uganda has been asked to increase the visibility of the work of human rights defenders to create a narrative that can be used to protect their rights.
The call has been made by the head of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) Mr. Phil Lynch while addressing a group of journalists undertaking the Universal Rights Group (URG) annual media program at his office in Geneva, Switzerland.
He noted that it is sad that journalists, like other human rights defenders, are often defined by the threats they face rather than their actual work, urging them to particularly ensure these positive stories are brought to the fore at such fora as the ongoing UN Human Rights Council through national NGOs and the Ugandan mission in Geneva.
ISHR notes that there is growing evidence that hope-based and values-led narratives are most effective in changing people’s hearts and minds and motivating action, in general, and in particular at the UN.
According to guidelines issued by ISHR earlier, each story that is told can be different, but eventually, a larger narrative starts to form. “If we keep laying down tiles of a similar tone, that tone will end up dominating the bigger picture that we want to create. A narrative takes time to form. Many voices and much repetition are required for it to take hold”, said ISHR campaign and mobilization manager Marianne Bertrand.
According to ISHR stories and narratives that are told about human rights defenders at the United Nations have a major impact on how they are understood and supported on the ground.
She says this notion was picked over the past 9 months, by ISHR together with a team of communications experts and researchers, who explored perceptions and views that diplomats working at the UN had about human rights and people who defend them.
“Our objective was to understand the messages that best increase support for human rights defenders at the UN,” says ISHR campaign and mobilization manager Marianne Bertrand, “and to craft more effective human rights narratives to increase support for defenders both at the international level and on the ground”, she said in the report.
Journalists in Uganda are therefore advised to primarily focus the narrative about people who defend human rights on their motivations, achievements, and objectives, rather than the dangers and risks they face. “Yes, too many of us are facing a grim reality today, but we mustn’t lose sight of our desired destination – the reason we push on and ask others to join us: a better tomorrow”, said Ms. Bertrand.