Rights Media: Journalists for Human Rights
by: Sarah Kess
July 14, 2012
Ten years ago, Canadian Benjamin Peterson was working at the Ghanaian Ministry of Justice, helping write Ghana’s reports to the UN. Alexandra Sicotte-Levesque, a graduate of Vassar and the London School of Economics, had a similar job in Cote d’Ivoire. The two met and began to discuss the numerous human rights abuses they had witnessed in their time in Africa. Over MSN Messenger, they created the idea for Journalists for Human Rights, Canada’s leading media development organization.
The goal is simple: to make everyone in the world fully aware of their rights. JHR believes in the practice of Rights Media, defined on its website as the process of writing, collecting, editing, producing and distributing media that creates societal dialogue on human rights issues.
The organization mainly works in sub-Saharan Africa, with programs either currently or formerly in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Malawi and Ghana. Between 2002 and 2010, JHR partnered with over 250 African media organizations in an effort to equip local journalists with the skills needed to report ethically and effectively on human rights. Programs are laid out on a five year time-line and handed over to local partners before they are completed. Last year, JHR’s Sierra Leone project was recognized by independent United Nations evaluators as among the top ten best-managed projects ever to be supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund.
Now led by Sicotte-Levesque and journalist Rachel Pulfer following Peterson’s departure last year, the organization has several initiatives underway for 2012. JHR plans to do more development work in Canada, and is currently piloting a media development initiative in Northern Ontario.