HUMAN RIGHTS AND MEDIA: THE EXPERIENCE OF THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON NORTH KOREA
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Even in oppressive countries, those responsible for abuses of human rights normally perform their deeds of commission and omission in private, away from the glare of publicity. Publicity and news attention encourage supporters of global human rights to address the violations of human rights of peoples and individuals. They speak up and demand action. Secrecy is a cloak for terrible crimes and violations.This is why, in the current international situation, those with responsibility for the United Nations’ efforts to advance universal human rights, and to expose violators, have increasingly looked to the media (especially international media) to support their efforts. Between the time in the 1990s when I discharged a mandate as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia (1993-6) and the more recent time in which I served as Chair of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on alleged human rights violations in the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) (North Korea) (2013-14), I noticed a significant change in the engagement of United Nations personnel with the media. A connection with media became more intensive, more time consuming and more professional. Moreover, it is supported from the top of the Organisation. The Secretary-General of the United Nations (Ban Ki-moon), the High Commissioners for Human Rights, other agency heads and mandate-holders have become much more willing to engage with media and much more skilful in doing so. By this I mean not only local newspapers, radio and television interviews but also international media and the new social networks, blogs, Reddit and the internet generally. Together these media can bring news, information and opinions of UN experts on human rights to an audience far wider than that which, in the past, had access to UN reports on human rights concerns.
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