Institute of Human Rights and Peace, Mahidol University
PVCHR: Highlighting human rights violations through New Media
This electronic technology is very much part of the contemporary human lives. It is pervasive, effective, explosive, and accessible which can transform people's opinion and influence changes in government. We have seen its wonders in China (cyber revolution 2011), Syria (uprising), Egypt (revolution), and Tibet (freedom struggle).
Yes, it is New Media that has brought several changes to the lives of millions of people, particularly affecting their culture and identity. It has created a new form of society, strengthened the voiceless, and empowered the powerless. Against this background, this article intends to discuss the role of new media/information technology in achieving the goals of organizations, specifically, People Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), an India-based non-governmental organization.
What is New Media?
New Media technology typically involves computer capabilities that allows or facilitates interactivity among users or between users and information (Rice and Associates 1984: 35). New media have been contrasted with the one to many and one way message flows of traditional mass media (Rogers, 1986). Early new media studies have emphasized the effects on its user, organizations and societies. New media, which emerged in the latter part of the 20th century, refers to on-demand access to content anytime and anywhere on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative par
ticipation, and community formation around the media content . Most technologies described as "new media" such as facebook, twitter, orkut, blogs, and youtube are digital, often having characteristics of being manipulated, networkable, dense, compressible, and interactive (Flew, 2008). People have turned to social networks for so many different reasons, whether it is to bring social change or to do business. These social networks provide huge audience and wide network which can strongly influence people's mind. In this connection it would be interesting to note about the phenomenon of 'technology determination'.
Technology determination, the belief that technologies have overwhelming power to drive human action and social change, is being widely accepted among new media scholars. Now there is a wide consensus that new media plays a vital role to shape social reality with long lasting effect. New media through its various outlets (internet, sms, mobile, and video) has helped to form public opinion, political participation, and provides a platform for political actions (Bentivegna and Luke, year). Another consequence of new media is 'interactivity' and selectivity where one can generate, select, and share information to targeted group (Livingstone and Lievrouw, 2002). No wonder, use of new media is increasingly becoming popular among non government's organizations (NGOs) who are using it to maximize their effort for advocacy, awareness and public campaign.
NGO voicing social concerns through New Media.
Blogs and social networking sites are widely prevalent among N.G.O.s. Bloggers-activist, a new line of emerging leaders, are products of new media. Furthermore, NGOs are using new media to advance the cause of human rights, to empower communities, to improve the lives of low-income families, to encourage environmental responsibilities, and to fight for social changes. In addition,
information technology is helping N.G.O.s connect with donors and policy makers, and build public consensus. Recent study shows that the role of new media in communicating the message of nonprofits will increase in coming years (Nelson, Josh 2009).
PVCHR initiative to use information technology
People Vigilance Committee on Human Rights is employing traditional source of media and new media in achieving their goal - to combat torture and bonded labour, and to eradicate discrimination in Indian society; successfully employed the new information technology, traditional, and non-. PVCHR receive, response, and highlights the cases of human rights violations using different media tools which includes, blogs , phone, SMS, e-news, facebook , google group and various alternative media such as www.visfot.com, www.newzfirst.com. At present, PVCHR is submitting petition to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), India through email. In addition, PVCHR presents human rights violation cases on YouTube, blogs, and twitter.
Monitoring, Responding and Redress
Anyone can quickly access P.V.C.H.R. through any media channel. Nonetheless, Organization, in many cases has taken cognizance of the human rights violations news from YouTube and news paper; and have successfully drew the attention of the concerned authority. In some instances where P.V.C.H.R got the information about social and physical atrocities, such as, a case of tribal girl who were sexually abused by the brick kiln owner in Jaunpur district, sent emails to the English and regional language news papers; thus news published got profound public coverage followed by official intervention therefore culprit were punished accordingly . However, PVCHR is careful in assessing the credibility and validity of information by crosschecking with other sources of information is always crosschecked before initiating any action.
Impact on Human rights advocacy
This rise of new media has increased communication between people all over the world. It has allowed people to express themselves through blogs, websites, pictures, and other user-generated media (Flew, 2008). In same vein, new media deeply impacted the way human rights advocacy has worked. Its role in democratization of information and social movements has been well recognized. According to PVCHR, "It is cost effective and effective in urgency. A way to challenge the human rights abuses on global level, establish debate to form public opinion: a new way of global accountability and responsibility of Governments in global order (PVCHR, 2012)". This NGO was able to influence policy makers, media and human rights groups nationally and internationally, through their efficient and regular documentation of cases of police torture and caste discrimination. Needless to say, attention to human rights violations through the new media can easily assist in soliciting support and funds for the work of non-profit groups.
Debate and discussion
Flew (2002), stated that as a result of the evolution of new media technologies, globalization occurs. New media "radically break the connection between physical place and social place, making physical location much less significant for our social relationships" (Croteau and Hoynes 2003: 311). However some are also skeptical of the role of New Media in Social Movements. Many scholars point out unequal access to new media as a hindrance to broad-based movements, sometimes even oppressing some within a movement (Herman, 2007). Others are skeptical about how democratic or useful it really is for social movements, even for those with access (Stephen 2008). Nonetheless, nonprofit groups are increasingly turning to alternative means to reach the public. At the same time, they are working on multi-level advocacy and various human rights issues using new media technologies to promote their agendas. Study has found that the use of new media technologies to advance social change is very much a work in progress (Livingstone and Lievrouw 2002). Nevertheless success of PVCHR employing new media tools is enough to substantiate this fact. Finally it can be said with utmost certainty that the role of new media in communicating the message of nonprofits will increase in coming years (Livingstone and Lievrouw, 2002).
CAMERAS EVERYWHERE: Questionnaire for Human Rights Organizations, P.V.C.H.R. doc.
Nelson, Josh., 2009, New Media and Social Change, How non-profits are using web based technologies to reach their goals, A product of Hatcher Group
Livingstone and Lievrouw (2002) The Handbook of New Media, Sage Publication, London
Wasserman, Herman, "Is a New Worldwide Web Possible? An Explorative Comparison of the Use of ICTs by Two South African Social Movements," African Studies Review, Volume 50, Number 1 (April 2007), pp. 109–131)