In addition to working almost daily with citizen media and other open source content, I also give regular trainings for human rights researchers and journalists. Unfortunately, not too many training resources exist in this regard, especially materials that are tailored to human rights practitioners. An additional challenge is that many resources—including on this site—focus on specific tools, which tend to become outdated very quickly considering how fast this field is developing.
I thought it would thus be important to create a more in-depth resource for practitioners and students who want to become proficient in human rights research in the digital age. Most importantly, the time is ripe for a tool-independent analytical framework to analyze and verify citizen media, which I hope will help integrating citizen media into traditional human rights documentation.
While there is very strong overlap with journalism, the practice of human rights research is distinct enough to propose a framework that is tailored for this field. In addition to identifying violations of specific laws, norms and standards, human rights research is normally integrated into an advocacy strategy that seeks specific redress for the identified violations. This advocacy work, typically carried out in a very public manner, binds human rights groups—as protection actors—to specific professional standards in regards to their sources and materials. The use of citizen media, which often reveals information on specific individuals in great detail, is no exception. Further, I am also making the case that secondary trauma prevention, a strongly overlooked issue specifically in the human rights field, should be part of the verification process, instead of being an afterthought.
In cooperation with Cambridge University’s Centre for Governance and Human Rights, I have published my analytical framework as a working paper last week. I consider this work in progress, and feedback is more than welcome!