Erica Howes: Supporting Human Rights through Journalism
What is Carleton Journalists for Human Rights (Carleton JHR)?
Carleton JHR is a chapter of Journalists for Human Rights, an international organization that trains journalists about human rights reporting. They send experienced journalists as trainers into newsrooms in 23 different countries including Jordan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and also provides some Indigenous reporting programs in Northern Ontario. JHR sends journalists in these communities to give local journalists the tools and resources they need to tell their own human rights related stories.
At Carleton’s chapter, we fundraise and host events throughout the year to assist projects run by the national organization. We also have a website with opinion, poetry, and news features, all related to human rights. On that side, it’s a cool opportunity for people to get something published, as long as it relates to human rights and they write on something they’re passionate about.
How has Carleton JHR grown over the past few years?
When I started in my first year, it was definitely a smaller group. In the past four years, we’ve really grown, starting with the people who were the executives in my first year. Our website just started a few years ago, and that’s become a really big part of what we are now. We’re also hosting a lot more events and really focusing on certain projects in JHR.
What are some of the projects that JHR is working on?
Last year, Carleton JHR supported projects in Jordan and South Sudan, where Canadian journalists worked in newsrooms and gave local journalists tools. A few years ago, we provided recorders for the journalists there to use. We also supported the Indigenous Reporters Program. Last year, this involved providing a scholarship for an Aboriginal student in Northern Ontario to study journalism at Loyalist College in Belleville. We fundraised a lot for this issue, and hosted many events last year related to Aboriginal issues and Aboriginal rights.
Why do you think it’s important to get involved in a collaboration like this?
It’s really important for anyone interested in writing or in human rights in general. That’s definitely why I joined in first year. I was looking for an outlet where I could discuss world issues with people who also wanted to learn more about world news and social justice. It’s especially important to learn what role journalists and the media have in this.
Has Carleton JHR had an impact on the way you view journalism and human rights?
Definitely. I’ve learned to see social policy and human rights issues in journalism. Even though journalism is about being objective, journalism is inherently subjective because of how you present the issue. Carleton JHR has made me think differently about how stories are told. You really need the people involved to tell their stories. It’s cool as a journalist to have the opportunity to tell personal accounts on these important issues.
Has your participation in Carleton JHR enriched your university experience?
I’ve been involved in Carleton JHR for four years, and this is my second year as co-president. It’s been a great opportunity to meet people of different years, programs and interests. We all have this common ground of wanting to learn about human rights issues and wanting to do something about them. It’s been a great opportunity to learn about human rights and human rights journalism.
How can someone get involved with Carleton JHR?
Carleton JHR is open to any students who are interested in writing, social justice, or discussion on those topics. If you’re interested, look at our website, www.carletonjhr.com. All our contact information is on our website. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, join our Facebook group, or email us.