Changing journalism education: human rights as values foundation

Nov 20, 2017

The Ombudsperson Valeria Lutkovska spoke about results of Nation-wide Research: What Ukrainians Know and Think of Human Rights.

How do you usually get information about human rights and ways to protect them? The recent Nation-wide Research: What Ukrainians Know and Think of Human Rights carried out by the Human Rights Information Centre and Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation with support from UNDP Ukraine and the Office of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. showed that the main source for Ukrainians to find information about human rights is media channels. Three out of four people in Ukraine say they find this information on TV, and 57% of respondents also acknowledged that TV shapes their view on human rights. Other channels, such as Internet and social media were also named as important source of information. Family, friends, and formal education much less so.

Such a dependence on media points to the importance of boosting the understanding of human rights based approaches among media professionals. On 10 November 2017, heads of all Ukrainian journalism institutions of higher education, the Ombudsperson, and human rights activists gathered at the thematic meeting of the Scientific and Methodological Commission on Journalism and Information to discuss the ways and strategies to lead-up human rights in journalism.

The Ukrainian Ombudsperson, Valeriya Lutkovska, stressed: “Today's is an historic meeting. We are laying the groundwork for journalists' education”. She explained that without solid knowledge on international standards of human rights, including article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression), article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), students of journalistic faculties cannot be complete in their role of professional journalists.

Igor Gutsulyak, UNDP Program Analyst, underlined: “The main source of human rights knowledge, according to the Human Right Baseline Study, is media. Media is also believed to be the most effective tool for defending one’s rights. In this regard, it seems crucial to increase human rights culture in journalism and strike a balance between the search for sensation and the respect of human rights. We need to combat manipulations. In the given situation, the high level of trust towards journalists imposes significant responsibility on them.”

During the meeting, a unique initiative was discussed: the Human Rights Academy for Journalists. Supported by the United Nations Development Program in Ukraine, this Academy is a joint initiative of the Institute of Journalism, Human Rights Information Centre, and the Ombudsperson’s Office. Kostiantyn Shenderovsky, Associate Professor of the Institute of Journalism of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, stressed: “The Academy is enhancing human rights awareness and knowledge among journalism teachers. It aims to increase the sensitivity of media to the problems of minorities and vulnerable groups, and to promote adherence to ethical journalistic standards in covering issues related to human rights, equality, and non-discrimination”.

The project involves 24 teachers from 20 Ukrainian universities (Kyiv, Lviv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Uzhhorod, Kherson, Kropivnitsky, Kharkiv, Khmelnytsky and other cities). Courses have been underway since September 2017 and they will last until March2018. Participants to the Academy will promote a systemic human rights-based approach in journalists’ education in their Institutes. This could be achieved through the development of a special Human Rights Journalism course or via integration of its elements and topics in existing study curriculums.

During the meeting, members of the Scientific and Methodological Commission on Journalism also decided to develop a road map for introducing human rights course into journalists’ education.

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