Public Awareness of Human Rights: Distortions in the Mass Media
Queen Mary University of London, School of Law
Queen Mary, University of London
October 4, 2009
International Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 12, 2009
Queen Mary University of London, School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper
The mass media decisively shape global perceptions about human rights, yet fail to reflect the realities of global violations. Situations of egregious abuse are often overshadowed by those which receive attention for reasons extraneous to any specific concern for human rights. Distortions in established media sources arise not necessarily from deliberate misrepresentation, but from the inevitable disparities that arise when human rights abuses are reported as by-products of military, economic, or other interests. This study examines day-by-day coverage of global human rights, during the three-month period from October to December 2006, in two American and two British broadsheets: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The Financial Times. The aim is to understand the kinds of factors which, albeit tangential to violations of fundamental human rights, nevertheless influence both the quantity and the quality of reporting. While various editorial pressures, such as the need to focus on topical stories, are not denied, it is argued that the news media must make greater efforts to achieve proportionality between the gravity of human rights situations and the degree of coverage those situations receive.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 63
Keywords: Afghanistan, China, Darfur, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Israel, Japan, human rights, international law, journalism, media, terrorism
JEL Classification: K1Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 6, 2009
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