Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Images of Human Rights in the Media

Eric Heinze and Rosa Freedman, Queen Mary University of London School of Law, have published "Public Awareness of Human Rights: Distortions in the Mass Media," in volume 12 of the International Journal of Human Rights (2009). Here is the abstract.


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.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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