As regular readers are no doubt well aware, one of the NGOs most frequently quoted and promoted by the BBC is Human Rights Watch. Despite the organisation’s regular appearances in content broadcast on a variety of BBC platforms, audiences are not informed of the many problematic aspects of its activities – as perhaps most famously publicised by its own founder five years ago – or of its political agenda.
Notwithstanding the existence of BBC editorial guidelines requiring audiences to be provided with details of the “ideology” of interviewees and their organisations, no such information was given when, on October 30th, the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outlook’ devoted ten minutes of airtime to an interview with HRW’s Fred Abrahams. Titled “On The Frontline Against War Criminals”, the item is available from 0:44 here.
Obviously not unrelatedly – as is noted in the item – HRW is currently promoting a documentary film about its activities with the advertising material including the following:
“When atrocities are committed in countries held hostage by ruthless dictators, Human Rights Watch sends in the E-Team (Emergencies Team), a collection of fiercely intelligent individuals who document war crimes and report them to the world. Within this volatile climate, award-winning filmmakers Ross Kauffman and Katy Chevigny take us to the front lines in Syria and Libya, where shrapnel, bullet holes, and unmarked graves provide mounting evidence of atrocities by government forces. The crimes are rampant, random, and often unreported—making the E-Team’s effort to get information out of the country and into the hands of media outlets, policy makers, and international tribunals even more necessary.”
In addition to the BBC provided platform, Human Rights Watch also secured a slot in the fashion magazine ‘Elle’ for PR promotion of the film. The NGO’s executive director Kenneth Roth promoted that article on social media, revealing some interesting priorities with regard to the issue of subjugation of women in patriarchal societies.
Whilst there is of course no doubt that the world is in desperate need of human rights organisations, for such important work to be effective it must necessarily be free of political bias and motivations and must be carried out using flawless methodology. Unfortunately HRW’s record on those points is less than impeccable – a fact which the BBC, yet again, obviously did not consider to be need-to-know information for its audiences, even though their interests would clearly have been better served by an objective portrayal of the organisation.