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9745 - Going Direct to Citizen: The Use of ICTs at Mexican Human Rights NGOs

This paper, which draws on a media ethnography of human rights reporting in Mexico, identifies ways that human rights NGOs reach a public audience. These NGOs traditionally relied on the mass media for communicating with the public, an aspect of their labour vital for generating moral pressure on the state to mitigate situations of human rights violations. At the time of my research, however, human rights workers were frustrated because they were not able to publish as much information as they wished – a situation that I argue was the result of credibility and trust barriers between human rights workers and journalists. Specifically, because of the media’s history of complicity with the government, human rights NGOs did not always trust journalists with their information. Journalists, in turn, did not always see human rights NGOs as credible sources, in large part because of smear campaigns mounted against particular NGOs by the government officials they had accused of human rights violations. Some NGOs were therefore actively experimenting with ways to bypass the mainstream media altogether by turning to new communications technologies. One NGO had developed an electronic newswire that delivered its information in the form of news articles straight to subscribers. Others were using websites, email, and social media as a means to interact directly with their audiences, unmediated, as it were, by the mass media. In undertaking these latter tactics, Mexican human rights NGOs were engaging in parajournalistic activities, thus blurring the boundaries between NGOs and media institutions and raising questions about what counts as journalism.          

Keywords: Mexico, media, NGO, human rights

Author: McPherson, Ella (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)

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