I just came across a fascinating blog post by award-winning reporter and journalism professor Michael J. Jordan, currently based in Slovakia. His lengthy list of accomplishments includes developing trainings for European Roma journalists.
From his long-term experience in journalism and his discussions with reporters in Central and Eastern Europe, Jordan concludes that the need for human rights journalism is pressing. In his recent meeting with the representatives from Slovak media, Jordan observed:
The assembled reporters… described how tough it can be to make the case to editors for why to approach stories with greater sensitivity, or also pursue positive Roma stories, or report more critically about far-right demonstrations. Or even why the majority should care about the state of its Roma minority – as a “litmus test” for Slovak democracy, values and respect for human rights.
Jordan wonders “out loud” what “fair and balanced” reporting on the Roma issues should look like. The local human rights journalists present explain:
The hatred has been planted so deep, there’s no space for high-minded, Western-liberal, even-handedness in broadcasting. The Roma are so beaten down by society’s perception of them, many have themselves developed low esteem for their own identity and peoplehood.
The information that follows is golden for me and others working with community-based Roma media advocacy groups. Jordan explains that human rights journalism is needed primarily for “the Roma themselves: to remind them of their humanity.”
Additionally, he explains, “the second target audience was equally striking: the ordinary (majority citizens) genuinely curious about Roma culture, and those who in fact have some warm feelings for the Roma – or, at least for their Roma neighbor or colleague, past or present.”
My AP fellowship’s goals match just that. In my work I aim to deliver positive portrayals of the Roma to correct the deeply entrenched, damaging stereotypes so prevalent in European societies. Jordan’s piece helps shed more light on yet another aspect of why this type of reporting is needed. This work is needed to boost the Roma community’s self-image and morale, which will in turn strengthen the Roma emancipation movement. Pro-Roma press coverage may also help attract more allies from the majority community to advocate for social change. Profound stuff.
Posted By Tereza Bottman
Posted May 28th, 2010