Reporters sharpen pencils for human rights coverage

(This article was originally published in the Vientiane Times and was posted in the website Lao Voices)

Journalists from the region last week attended a Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, on human rights, learning how to effectively report on human rights issues.

The workshop titled ‘Challenge to Media’s Coverage of Human Rights in Southeast Asia’ took place on May 28 and 29.

Its aim was to build a pool of journalists who can cover and monitor Asean nations and their commitment to human rights in a more informed and sustainable way.

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The workshop gave journalists exposure to pertinent human right issues in the region and showed them how they can make use of existing human rights mechanisms, laws, and civil society organisations at the local and regional levels to pursue their stories.

Journalists were able to interact with prominent human rights defenders including representatives of the Asean Inter-Commission on Human Rights, and network with fellow journalists from other countries in the region.

About 15 journalists from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand attended the session.

The two-day workshop is the second in a series of journalism workshops under the Southeast Asian Press Alliance’s Asean and Media project, designed to promote the Alliance’s engagement with the Asean process and develop the capacity of journalists to monitor and scrutinise Asean nations.

The previous workshop was held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in March 2010. It ran in parallel with the first official meeting of the Asean Inter-Commission on Human Rights to underscore how the new human rights body should be transparent and accountable to the Asean people.

About 25 journalists and editors from Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand attended that workshop.

They were trained by regional and international experts from the media, the academe, civil society, and Asean nations.

Since the adoption of the Asean Charter in 2007, the group’s first legal binding document to create the Asean Community by 2015, Asean has become the focus of the media and rights and development agencies, especially those involved with human rights.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance has built an Asean component into its training, advocacy and networking and knowledge-building programmes, where and when it is relevant.

The themes of previous SEAPA journalism fellowship programmes, conducted annually, have been built around Asean developments