UNDP’s Business and Human Rights in Asia (B+HR Asia) project launched guidance for journalists, communicators and campaigners for reporting on business and human rights issues that outlines the unique set of skills needed to identify, investigate and pitch complex business and human and rights (BHR) stories.

The handbook, Reporting Business and Human Rights: A handbook for journalists, communicators and campaigners aims to help everyone from individuals developing their own stories to those conducting media training in bringing greater attention to these often-untold stories – an important step in creating positive change for people whose rights are impacted by business activities.

In his keynote address at the launch of the handbook on 30 September, Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor for Global Issues at the Institute for Human Rights and Business, emphasized the importance of vigilance and scepticism as a cornerstone of journalists in “casting light in the hidden corners of global commerce”.

“Journalists listen, observe and tell stories that someone, somewhere wants to supress – that is news, the rest is advertising,” he said.

Speaking on a panel of journalists, Sushmita Preetha, Impact Editor for the Daily Star in Bangladesh, underscored the ubiquity of BHR stories. “If you are willing to ask the difficult questions – if you are willing to really see – business and human rights stories are everywhere,” she said.

Business and human rights issues cut across all types of news stories, from fashion to politics to the environment. One of the goals of the handbook is to encourage journalists and communicators to consider how to cover BHR in their own area of work.

“This handbook will not help journalists, communicators or campaigners become experts on business and human rights…but we hope it will give them a sense of how to get started, and where to look if they want to go further,” said Harpreet Kaur, Business and Human Rights Specialists at UNDP.

During the panel – which was moderated by human rights advisor Julie Schindall – Anubha Bhonsle, Founder of Newsworthy, freelance reporter Krittika Cloitre, and Ms Preetha discussed finding BHR angles in ordinary stories, cultivating relationships with sources, and strategies they use to manage risks when reporting these stories.

Bhonsle stressed the rigour required to place business activities into the broader context and geography in which they operate. “We should not only ask businesses about what they make,” she said, adding that corporations have a responsibility to citizens given their increasing role in providing services and using natural resources.

Watch the launch event: 

 

Featuring interviews with media professionals, the handbook consolidates the experience of practitioners and, as Nick Raistrick, journalist, trainer, and author of the handbook, noted during the launch, encourages readers to “spot the story and see through the spin”. In addition to information about reporting BHR stories, it also covers broader considerations like nurturing and protecting sources, digital security and personal safety, and creative storytelling.

“Reporting on BHR is critical, and increasingly so, for two reasons: ensuring accountability and transparency, the ‘knowing and showing’. In particular, media has a lot to contribute in helping companies in ‘showing’. Not only bad business practices – the good stories also need to be told,” said Livio Sarandrea, Global Advisor on BHR, noting that good examples can motivate companies to do better.

The handbook was developed by UNDP’s Business and Human Rights in Asia project with support from the Government of Sweden. To take this work further, the project will be organizing a series of trainings in the coming months that will be largely based on the handbook.

The handbook can be downloaded on UNDP’s website at www.undp.org/publications/reporting-business-and-human-rights-handbook-journalists-communicators-and-campaigners.

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