Journalists for Human Rights

Reporting on Rights Radio

This week, I checked in with my pals at Journalists for Human Rights on Right Radio to report on the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility's (CMFR) work in the lead up to November 23rd, the International Day to End Impunity. Have a listen below to learn more about what's going on here in the Philippines...

Also, on this week's Rights Report goes global to look at censorship in countries around the world. The folks at jhr speak to RSF, Reporters Without Borders, about their Censorship Paradise campaign targeting holiday countries where media is heavily censored. The show goes to Cuba to look at the work of censored blogger Yoanni Sanchez, then off to Mexico, where reporters are continually being killed. Finally, the Rights Report lands in Vietnam and the Philippines (that's me!), where the media is fighting acts of impunity.

Not a Goodbye, but a TTYL to Journalists for Human Rights

There's been a lot on my mind and in my heart the past little while and I've been procrastinating in writing this post for as long as possible. It's been hard to find the words, but here I go anyway...

Tomorrow is my last day at Journalists for Human Rights. In three days, I'm flying out to the Philippines to start my new adventure. As you can imagine, the past few weeks have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster as I've been preparing for this transition in my life. So you'll have to bear with me as I'm about to get overly nostalgic in the paragraphs to follow...

I started working at jhr as the social media intern when I was just nineteen years old. A young grasshopper with a mind still so ripe and impressionable. I can't tell you enough how much of an impact this single experience has made in my life. jhr and the incredible people that I've had the pleasure of working with for the past two years have played such a significant part in molding who I am today and who I want to be. To work with an organization that is so wholeheartedly dedicated to empowering the people who are all too often marginalized and ignored has been, pardon the cliche, an absolute privilege. In the yellow wood that is my life, the luck of having stumbled upon this path and my choice to take it...well, that has made all the difference. At home or abroad, jhr changes lives...and mine is no exception.

I basically grew up in that office. I started back in 2009 when social media was really just beginning to explode and I've learned so much since then...not just about social media but also about journalism, human rights, media development, working with NGOs, and a whole smorgasbord of other world and life lessons. I've been able to combine my interests in international development, human rights, and online technology in a way that I didn't even realize was possible back then. These were all separate fields to me, but I've since learned the possibility and beauty of putting them all together in a way that can catalyze change.

I am forever grateful to Ben Peterson for taking a chance on me first as an intern, then as a staff member to head up jhr's social media efforts and take on the enormous responsibility of acting as jhr's online voice. I've been given so much trust to run with my ideas and turn them into something meaningful. At a time when executive buy-in for adopting social media in organizations was a painful and frustrating endeavour, I was being given the freedom (and the budget!!) to organize tweet-ups and hold workshops on how to use social media to spread human rights awareness. Communications departments in businesses and non-profits alike were struggling to get executives to even wrap their heads around the idea of social media...and there I was in our boardroom, a third year university student throwing out outlandish words like "tweet-up" and "twestivals" and actually being taken seriously.

And that's the beauty of working at jhr. There is so much openness to new and fresh ideas, regardless of who is proposing them--full-time or part-time staff, interns or volunteers...everyone is genuinely treated like a valued member of the team. There is so much support and trust from everyone, you can't help but feel like a part of something bigger. And I know it's this not-so-secret weapon that'll continue to propel jhr's growth in the future.

family photo

So to my family there at jhr, I'm going to miss working side by side with all of you! You are truly some of the most dynamic, committed, and passionate people I've ever come across. How you all work so tirelessly day in and day out, often juggling a myriad of roles, is something that will continue to blow my mind. And it's something that I'll take with me in the future to push myself to do better in whatever setting I find myself in. I can't tell you enough how much of a positive influence you've all been for me...

Despite all the hard and serious work we do, we always manage to keep the energy alive in that office and it is honestly just a joy to work with each of you. I'm really going to miss sitting with all of you in the kitchen at lunch baking in the sun even on the coldest of days. I will miss the birthday cakes, the beers, and the brainstorms. I will miss the frequent debates of whether or not to grab a cookie from Le Gourmand (if you're ever in doubt in the future, just know that the answer is always yes). I will miss wheeling around the office to bother you with my questions. And I will miss the frequent mystery of who has the bathroom keys.

There are tons of changes coming up for both jhr and each individual there, and though all changes have their melancholy, I am beyond excited to see all the growth (always growth!) that lies ahead. You are all an inspiration and I am proud and humbled everyday to know that I've had the opportunity to work with each of you...

Peace, love, and social media,
@justineabigail ;)

Media that Matters: Translating Rights into Reality

The following is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in Peace Magazine for the October-December issue.

"Awareness is the first and most necessary step in ending human rights abuses.”’s a statement I have found myself saying over and over again both to myself and to others when talking about human rights violations around the world and the media’s role in reporting these issues. After all, if people aren’t aware of the rights and freedoms they are entitled to, how can one possibly, in the words of the ever-wise Bob Marley, “get up, stand up—stand up for your rights”?

Yes, awareness is the answer. It’s so intuitive, so common sense, so simple. But alas, common sense does not necessarily reflect reality and simple does not mean easy. Regrettably, around the world, including some of the most developed and prosperous countries, there is an outrageous and glaring lack of awareness of our most basic and fundamental human rights.

The media have a huge role to play in solving this problem by highlighting the gap between every individual’s guaranteed human rights and what they experience in reality. With their ability to reach millions of people, whether through print, radio, television, or now in our increasingly digital world, the Internet, the media are essential to a vibrant democracy that does not tolerate arbitrary abuse.

Journalists for Human Rights trainers working alongside a local journalist in Ghana

Let me demonstrate. A single radio station in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the most important medium for information in the country, reaches thousands of Congolese people. Now multiply that by the approximately 360 local community radio stations that exist in the DRC and imagine the number of people who can be informed of their rights. In fact, a study in Ghana on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child found that the media was the largest source of information about the treaty. The media thus has the power to expose human rights abuses when they happen, to hold relevant actors accountable for their actions, and to empower marginalized and vulnerable communities to speak out and protect themselves.

But herein lies the rub: We live in a world where press freedom has been on the decline, where only 35% of all the countries in the world enjoy a free press, and where the infrastructure for a strong and independent media is, in many countries, virtually nonexistent.

In such a situation, it is no wonder that investment in local media is largely missing from the wider discussion of international development. Indeed, media development makes up a meager 0.5% of all international development efforts.

Despite this seemingly insignificant number, some organizations are working tirelessly to strengthen the journalism sector in some of the harshest conditions in the world—and are even achieving tangible success. To continue reading, download the PDF here.

Birthday, birthday, birthday!

You guessed it! My birthday is coming up! And in addition to my yearly tradition of dancing my face and feet off to usher in another fabulous year of life, I've decided to give up my presents this year and instead, ask all my friends and family (that's you!) to donate to my favorite organization: Journalists for Human Rights. I've been working with this organization for the past two years now and have seen first-hand the incredible progress we, along with our partners, have made in improving human rights by using the power of the media. Watch my ask in the video below :)

Any donation - $5, $10, $15, $20 - will make a difference and I assure you, 100% of all the money raised for my birthday will go to our programs overseas. If you want more information about jhr and/or where your money is going, visit the website at or just give me a shout!

In advance, merci buckets for all of your contributions! You are giving the gift of human rights and that is worth more than anything you could possibly buy anywhere else. You are my heroes.