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Friday, August 13

Journalism and PR to battle it out for human rights

Do stories about human rights make the cut in our news bulletins? Or are they overshadowed by sensationalised pieces and so-called ‘headline grabbing’ stories?

Amnesty International Aotearoa NZ, in conjunction with AUT University’s Club PR, is pitting public relations practitioners against journalists next Tuesday to debate whether human rights violations are being overlooked by the New Zealand news media.

Chaired by Russell Brown of Public Address, the charity debate will see Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury of TUMEKE! and Kiwi FM’s and TVNZ 7’s Wallace Chapman up against PR directors, Jane Sweeney of Porter Novelli and Carrick Graham of Facilitate Communications. The teams will each be joined by one AUT student studying journalism and public relations.

The debating teams will be asked to respond to the moot: ‘Human rights in New Zealand; the news media create more heat than light’.

“Journalists have role to play but really have to leave their bias and cynicism at the door,” says Carrick Graham in his response to being asked how he feels about debating against journalists.

Wallace Chapman, on the other hand, argues, “There are some fine journalists in New Zealand who hold a desire and giving a voice to the voiceless – or the underdogs. That’s much of what journalism ought to be about in my opinion. “

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director Rebecca Emery says it is becoming harder to attract media attention to human rights abuses that are occurring on a daily basis, both in New Zealand and around the world.

“Human rights issues are often considered too complex to cover and cannot compete with the more salacious stories being covered by today’s news media,” says Emery.

“While the New Zealand public is privy to the most intimate details concerning the lives of politicians, celebrities and the royal family, they hear little about the most shocking horrors being inflicted upon ordinary citizens every day.

“Amnesty is challenging the news media to shine a brighter spotlight on human rights issues occurring in the darkest corners of the world. We hope this debate will help to widen the dialogue about human rights issues within the NZ media and the public relations industry,” adds Emery.

Members of the public are invited to attend the debate. Entry is by donation to raise funds for the research and campaigning work undertaken by Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand.