Gillian Caldwell
Exec. Director, Witness; Human Rights Advocate
05:29

Re: Does the media do enough for human rights?

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Caldwell asks citizens to participate more.


Gillian Caldwell

Gillian Caldwell is the Executive Director of WITNESS, an international human rights organization that provides training and support to local groups to use video in their human rights advocacy capaigns. Caldwell was a Co-Director of the Global Survival Network (now WildAid), where she coordinated the two-year undercover investigation into the trafficking of women in Russia that culminated in her 1997 film, Bought and Sold. She is the leader of the Witness to Truth video project in Sierra Leone that urges the government of Sierra Leone to implement TRC recommendations. Caldwell was the reipient of the 2000 Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership award and has been named one of 40 Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs by the Schwab Foundation, a 2003 Tech Laureate by the Tech Museum, and a Special Partner by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Caldwell received her BA from Harvard University and her JD in human rights law from Georgetown University. Her videos have been shown as evidence in legal proceedings, such as the international war crimes investigation against Slobodan Milosevic, in the Sierra Leone Truth Commission proceedings, and at the UN. Ideas recorded on: 8/13/07

Transcript
Question: What role has the media played in the human rights movement?

Transcript:Well certainly I think, you know, I have a bone to pick with the media as it stands. I mean it’s widely understood that we’re facing increasing concentration of mainstream media; that it is controlled by a diminishing number of companies; that corporate interests influence the nature and type of the coverage. I mean you have a channel like Fox for example which is known to have a political bend, and of course from a Fox perspective. The other channels would be understood to have a different political bent. But the reality is that we are not getting honest, accurate, rigorous reporting from a lot of the mainstream media, and that it’s very driven by commercial interests as it stands. And even non-commercial operations like a PBS constantly under threat from Congress in terms of its funding and its continued existence, and I think not really rising to the challenge of making the most of the new participatory possibilities that technology presents for us. So I think that is why you have seen a massive shift away from mainstream media in terms of how North Americans, for example, get their news increasingly towards trusted sources, towards informal networks, towards, you know, programs like the Jon Stewart Show and the blogosphere. And then also, I think, this very creative dialogue and really challenge being presented by the blogosphere when you look at sort of the Rathergate scandal for example; one in which the blogosphere challenged and ultimately usurped one of the denizens of mainstream media. So I think mainstream’s media . . . media right now is, by its own admission, you know, confronting a major crossroads. And it has to do with the challenge of viability . . . commercial viability given what’s happened with transformations in technology, and also the challenge of the diminishing trust that the public now places in them and in their coverage.


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