The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism.
This is a simulation of a group of journalists working to prepare the front page of their paper ready to go to press. People work in small groups as they explore issues about:
• Bias, stereotyping and objectivity in the media.
• Images and the role of media in addressing human rights issues.
- Related rights
• The right to freedom of thought, opinion and expression
• Freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence
• The right to participate in the cultural life of the community
• To widen awareness about the media and their approach to human rights issues
• To develop the skills to communicate and work co-operatively
• To cultivate a sense of responsibility and a commitment to social change
• A large room with enough space for two or three small working groups and plenary.
• 40-45 photographs from newspapers or magazines
• Paper and pens for making notes
• Large sheets of paper (A3) size or flipchart paper and markers
• Scissors and glue for each small group
• Tables with a working surface large enough for the working groups to spread all their papers out
• Select 40-45 pictures from magazines or national newspapers. Note: you need three sets of the same 40 pictures, one set for each small working group. You will therefore either have to buy three copies of every newspaper from which you select photographs, or have access to a photocopier.
• Display one set of photographs on a table.
- 3 MayWorld Press Freedom Day
1. Introduce the activity. Explain that this is a simulation of an evening in a newspaper office where a group of journalists are working on the front page of their paper. Although these are local papers serving the community, each has a policy to keep its readership informed about current global issues, including human rights.
2. Show an example of a front page of a newspaper and point out the features and layout of a typical front page.
3. Show people the display of photographs. Ask them to walk around the table in silence and not to make any comments at this stage. Explain that these are the images that they have to work with; they may use them and interpret them as they wish.
4. Now divide the participants into three working groups of six to eight people. Each group is to imagine that it is an editorial group working on a different newspaper. Their task is to design and lay out the front page of tomorrow morning's edition.
5. Ask each group to choose a name for their newspaper.
6. Now set the editorial teams to work. Hand out the paper and pencils, glue and scissors to each group - but not the photographs yet.
7. Go over the instructions. They are to design the layout for the front page of their paper.
8. They have one hour to select four or five news stories that they wish to present. They should focus on the impact the front page makes. Rather than actually telling the full stories, choosing a picture and writing the headline, by-line and introduction are sufficient. They do not have to write the body of the article; they can simply indicate its position on the page with a shaded box.
9. Suggest they start by discussing the themes or issues they want to include in their reports. Tell them that after ten minutes will they receive the photographs from the "print department".
10. When the groups have been working for about ten minutes, hand out the sets of photographs, one set per group. Give them 50 minutes to complete their work.
11. When the teams have finished, tell them that they should lay their work out for everyone to read. Then go on to the debriefing and evaluation.
Start with a review of the activity itself and then go on to discuss the media, human rights issues and commitment.
• How did the groups organise the work? Did they work as one unit or did they split into individuals, pairs or threes to work on different "stories"? How did they make decisions about how to do the work and about which stories to cover? Was there a leader, or did they share the decision making? Did everyone feel they could participate and contribute?
• How did people choose the themes or issues to work with? Which came first, the issue or the picture? That is, did they first identify an issue and then find a suitable picture to illustrate it, or were they inspired by a certain picture so that they then created a story around it?
• What themes or issues were presented? How do they relate to human rights? Were there issues that anyone would have liked to have used, but which they had to drop? Why did they drop them?
• How do the different front pages of the different papers compare? Have the same themes or photographs been used?
• Have different groups used the same image, but in different ways?
• How do people follow the news? In newspapers, on the television, radio or the Internet? Why do – or don't – they follow the news?
• In this simulation did they try to imitate a traditional front page, or did they create a different look? What is the most effective way to catch the readers' attention?
• What sort of news dominates the media in real life?
• Is there generally good coverage of human rights issues in the news?
• How often are stories presented as human rights stories?
• One of the major points of discussion regarding the media is its "objectivity". Do participants think it is possible to present news objectively? Is it possible? Is it desirable?
• Which human rights or human rights violations did the different stories depict?
• Did they try to link cause and effect, North and South, development and environment, rich and poor, and so on, in their reports? How are these issues presented in the real media?
• What images do participants have of young people in other parts of the world? In "poor" countries? In "rich" countries?
• Are there important themes or issues missing from the set of pictures?
When choosing the pictures to use in this activity, make sure that you have a good variety of images and that you avoid stereotypes. The real news is often full of murders, wars and other disasters and more rarely contains positive messages. (There is more that happens in Africa than war and famine!) Let the pictures you select give the participants an opportunity to pick images of "good" news as well as the "bad" news. There should be a variety of images representing diversity with respect to age, sex, race, cultural groups, geographical location and so on. Also bear in mind the interests of the young people and include images relating to hot news events and personalities. The list below will give you some ideas.
|TV news presenter - woman||Burning oil||Moroccan girl||F16 with bombs|
|Globe||Greenpeace action||State police||Guerrilla|
|Camera team in the Third World||Plume of industrial smoke||Graffiti||Two dead soldiers|
|Shoeshine boy with Philips advert||Advertisement: Batida||Anti-racism concert||Farms not arms|
|Children throwing stones||Trolleys full of coffee||Parliament||Piled up grain bags|
|Women making dam||Advertisement: Coca Cola||Drugs||Selling Third World products|
|Unemployment benefit||Seller on the beach||Famous politician, e.g. USA President||Women’s meeting|
|African miner||Market place in the Third World||Mandela||Family planning|
|Battery hens||Lonely woman||World leaders meet at COP15||AIDS prevention|
|Why do babies starve when
there’s enough food?
|Slums in Brussels||Refugee camp||Crowd of people|
|Pesticides||Slums in the Third World||Refugees at embassy||Public transportation|
|Advertising a hamburger
|Overfull bin||Eric Cantona||War crimes tribunal|
|Tree-felling in the rain forest||Sorting out cans||Children in an asylum centre||Car exhibition|
|Dry soil||Fridges on dumping ground||Football player||Traffic jam|
|Children playing in water||Black boy with guitar||Action Amnesty International||Cyclists’ action|
|Irrigation||Nintendo||Demonstration in the Philippines||Young man with microphone|
|Washing a car||Rock star||US troops in Afghanistan||Space shuttle blast-off|
|Street children||Somali pirates in action||Flooding of a Pacific Island|
When introducing the activity point out the features and layout of a typical front page: the catchy headline written to attract the reader's attention; the by-line (for example, "by our environment correspondent, Mohammad Schmidt"). Then there is a short introduction to what the story is about, followed by the body of the text. Discuss how pictures are used to support the story or to capture the reader's attention. Point out also what the pictures don't show! Talk about how they have been cropped to draw the viewers' eye to what the photographer - or the picture editor - wants to show. Also point out the way in which captions are written. It can be instructive to demonstrate this using a foreign language paper; it makes it easier to dismiss the content and to focus on the impact instead.
Encourage the groups to be creative in their ideas and the way they present them. They can write, crop the pictures and draw cartoons. Their papers may be serious, humorous or ironic. Depending on the group, you will have to decide how much to say about this or whether to just let them go and see what they come up with.
An alternative way of presenting this activity is to present a radio or television news programme. If you choose to work on a television broadcast it is highly recommended that you beam images from a computer or slide projector onto a screen in a blacked-out room to give the "feeling" of watching the television. An alternative could be to make a web page or a blog.
Discuss aspects of the rights selected by the groups for their news. For example, how are they addressed in your country?
Participants could contact a local newspaper or radio or television station and talk to journalists about how they work and discuss issues of objectivity and the way global and human rights issues are presented in the media.
If the group are interested in pictures and how they are used / misused in the media, then they may enjoy activities such as "Part of the picture" and "Captions", which are described under "More ways to play with pictures" at the end of the activity "Playing with pictures". If the group enjoy activities that involve quick thinking, they could do "Just a minute", which is about the relationship between sport and human rights.
Alternatively, if the group would like to relax and listen to music and at the same time learn about other peoples, cultures, music and language, then look up "Knysna blue" in the All Different – All Equal Education Pack.
Many local radio stations have opportunities for community groups to make their own broadcasts. Work on a group project to research and produce a radio broadcast about issues of concern to them, for example, under the headline: "think globally, act locally".
Look at www.newtimes.dk to see an example of how asylum seekers in Denmark are using the media. You might like to help asylum seekers (or another minority group) in your country do something similar.
Use the local media (radios, newspapers) and also the global ones including the social networks like Hi5, facebook, twitter and blogs to pass your messages on.
Some of the issues raised in the activity include:
1. Young people, as well as adults, are continually swamped with a mass of information through all the different media. Some people realise this, others don't. We can ask ourselves: what do we do with this information? Does it mean that we are all better informed, or not necessarily?
2. The media are becoming more and more commercialised and the simplification of the message; stereotyping and sensationalism are alarming developments. Is it becoming increasingly difficult to find quality news?
3. Finding quality news is especially difficult in relation to news about inequality issues, particularly where developing countries are concerned. Non-western news is often seen only through western eyes. This very often results in negative and dismal news. One-sidedness and negativity is the norm. Do you agree?
4. The rise in the use of the Internet has led to the decline of journalism. Neil Henry, former Washington Post correspondent, now a professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley states, "I see a world in which the pursuit of truth in service of the public interest is declining as a cultural value in our society amid this technological tumult; a world where professional journalism, practiced according to widely accepted ethical values, is a rapidly diminishing feature in our expanding news and information systems, as we escape to the Web to experience the latest ‘new' thing. Meantime, I can't help but fear a future, increasingly barren of skilled journalists, in which searches for "news" turn up not news, but the latest snarky rants from basement bloggers, fake news reports from government officials and PR cleverly peddled in the guise of journalism by advertisers wishing only to sell, sell, sell."
5. Bloggers and posts on networking sites bring us much closer to what is happening around the world. Raw material is powerful; consider the immediacy and impact of blogs, personal videos and postings on social networking sites from earthquake, other disasters and war zones.
6. The Internet has meant that people worldwide have access to news and information from sources in every country. This makes censorship much harder.
7. Is objectivity possible or desirable? Is it possible to escape our own ethnocentrism? And can balance – telling "both" sides of the story – actually be a form of informational bias? For instance, despite the consistent assertions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that human activities have had a "discernible" influence on the global climate and that global warming is a serious problem that must be addressed immediately, "he said/she said" reporting has allowed a small group of global warming sceptics to have their views greatly amplified.
b) Human rights issues
The media are obviously important for raising the public's awareness about human rights. But we should be aware of how the issues are presented and the motives. Everyone needs to be critical of what is - and is not - given to us, and the way information and facts are presented. For example, in a war, fighters may be described either as freedom fighters or as terrorists in different papers depending on different political viewpoints. People of other cultures may be presented in non- objective ways. For example, the Inuit may be presented as being exotic, hardy people fighting to preserve their traditional way of living in igloos, but when it comes to a discussion about whaling, then, they are described as "murderers".
Some of the images used in the simulation should picture opportunities for people, especially young people, to commit themselves in very practical ways. As teachers, youth workers, etc., we wish to motivate young people to work for a better world. We ask ourselves how best to encourage young people to become engaged, and may question whether or not the existing opportunities are in fact attractive to young people. We may get some indication to the answers from the slides which the young people choose.