In the Philippines, DRL and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) worked to strengthen media reporting on human rights—the hallmark of a democratic society. Through support from the Human Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF), and in partnership with three local groups, IWPR worked alongside print and broadcast journalists and editors to root better human rights understanding and protection within the media and out into society at large.
IWPR’s Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project (www.rightsreporting.net) organized 29 training sessions to establish a network of dedicated human rights reporters throughout the country: It encouraged journalists to be better monitors and guardians of society by being more aware of people’s rights and responsibilities. The project trained 520 journalists on human rights concepts, conventions and laws. It also showed them how to investigate extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, alongside ways of reporting on “justice” as opposed to simply reporting on “crime”. Journalists were also shown and encouraged to study and report on the causes and consequences of poverty in engaging and relevant ways. Importantly, participants were continually encouraged to analyze and reframe their own reporting by giving less space to the rich, famous or powerful and more thought to those people and groups who seldom have their views and interests ever seriously considered.
As part of its “training by doing” approach, IWPR published 142 investigations, reports, videos and blogs on pressing human rights issues including people trafficking and the continuing climate of impunity around enforced disappearances and summary killings. Stories produced and posted on the website were subsequently republished 175 times by local, national and international media and associated websites. Reports and findings were also cited by the BBC, the Daily Telegraph and the New York Times. In June 2009, the project and its website were shortlisted alongside the BBC and the British Red Cross as the Best New Media in the One World Media Awards, a testament to the impact of IWPR’s work in the Philippines.
IWPR and its partners worked with competing groups to try and depoliticize human rights and understand that impunity will only be seriously tackled from a collective approach that does not try and promote the interests of one over the other. They did so by using media appearances, platforms and a series of 15 public events across the country to promote that state and non-state groups share equal responsibility. In addition to linking with the Council for Islam and Democracy and the Asian Congress for Media and Communication, IWPR helped seed and develop the idea of a human rights elective course for journalism students at the University of the Philippines in Manila. They also worked with dozens of civil society groups as well as the Commission on Human Rights in Manila, Mindanao and elsewhere. IWPR reached out to and received positive feedback from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Toward the end of the project, IWPR drew together former members of the Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels and sat them down with the media and a public audience to discuss how local journalism could help promote a sustainable and fair peace in Mindanao.
Though the project has formally concluded, 10 journalists were selected and trained as human rights trainers and the website remains accessible and occasionally updated. 1,000 copies of a 105-page field guidebook on all aspects of human rights reporting were given to journalists, newsrooms and university campuses, and the book remains freely available online. Following its publication in May 2009, project director Alan Davis was contacted by the International Committee of the Red Cross wishing to use it as a basis of its own manual for local journalists there.
IWPR’s project partners were the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, the Center for Community Journalism and Development, and the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center.