From Professor Frankel:
This is the Age of Human Rights. Since World War Two, we’ve seen the rise of the concept of universal rights and the growth of a global movement dedicated to the cause. Governments have signed treaties and conventions committing themselves to opposing genocide, torture and other crimes against humanity.
At the same time, nation-states have jealously guarded their own sovereignty, cracked down whenever threatened and ignored outbreaks of genocide, while superpowers like the United States have forged alliances with despots of many stripes. The distance between what governments have pledged on human rights and what they actually do is a gaping chasm. It’s here—in the gray zone between ambiguity and hypocrisy—that journalism lives.
This course will discuss the role of journalists in exposing human rights abuses. We’ll examine a number of case studies…
…from the past 30 years such as El Salvador, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan and Israel, see how journalists covered these conflicts, what they found out and what they published and the price some of them paid. We’ll also explore the legal and moral obligations of journalists as witnesses to atrocities and genocide.
Human rights abuses are not confined to Third World despots. Western democracies, faced with perceived threats to their survival, have long been willing to abrogate rights. There is no more compelling contemporary example than the Bush administration’s policies and practices in its declared Global War on Terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. In the name of security, the administration has sanctioned torture, extralegal kidnapping, secret prisons and collective punishment of noncombatants. When these practices have been disclosed in the press, officials have reacted with a typical pattern: denial, outrage, committees of inquiry, selective prosecutions and promises to do better. The response of the public has been muted—many support the government and others prefer not to know. Pop culture moments, like Fox’s “24,” reinforce the idea that torture is necessary and justifiable in combating a mortal threat to society.
The second half of the course will focus on the American Gulag. Students will examine different components of the Bush administration ‘s “New Paradigm”—including the nature of the threat, the modern history of torture, Bagram, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, the muted response of Congress and the courts and the administration’s own statements and memos. We’ll look at the secrets that journalists have uncovered, and try to locate some that remain hidden. Students in each case will make a class presentation, write an article and produce a website report.
Glenn Frankel is a former Washington Post foreign correspondent who has served as bureau chief for Southern Africa, Jerusalem and London and who won a Pulitzer Prize in foreign reporting for his coverage of the first Palestinian uprising.
Human Rights Journalism
Spring 2007 / Communication 177K/277K / 4-5 units/ MW, 10-11:50 a.m.
Room 59, McClatchy Hall (Building 120)
Glenn Frankel, Hearst Professional in Residence
frankelg at stanford.edu
This is a workshop limited to 15 students.