News : Article

Changing the conversation on human rights

Graphic: Participants in the media and communications workshop

With fake news an everyday part of the media landscape, NHRIs need to develop new and effective ways to communicate with the community.

With fake news and social media trolling now firmly part of the everyday media landscape, a growing challenge for national human rights institutions (NHRIs) is to develop new and effective ways to communicate with journalists, with partners and with the community.

This challenge was the starting point for an APF media and communications workshop held earlier this month with staff of the Commission of Human Rights of the Philippines.

A group of 24 senior managers and staff from across the Commission took part in a two-day program that encouraged frank discussions about the difficulties of communicating in an environment where human rights have increasingly been framed as a barrier to development.

Discussion topics and activities were focused on:

  • Translating human rights into plain language
  • Communicating with shared values
  • Using storytelling to connect people to ideas, emotions and action
  • Developing campaign goals, messages and tactics.

Participants in the media and communications workshop

"The discussions gave me new perspectives on how to deal with social media comments from trolls, how to combat fake news and how to encourage support from netizens."

Workshop participant
Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines


The workshop – held in Quezon City from 14-15 February 2018 – also looked at different ways to engage audiences on the Commission's social media platforms, as well as strategies for responding to a media crisis.

Participants worked collaboratively through a series of scenarios and key questions to develop the foundations for a media crisis strategy that could be activated in those situations when it is required.

In addition, there were small group sessions for staff of the Commission's strategic communications team on writing for the media and on digital storytelling.

"In the Philippines and elsewhere, communicating human rights issues in clear, simple and powerful terms has never been more important," said APF Expert Communications Consultant James Iliffe, who facilitated the workshop.

"When there is a public conversation questioning the value or relevance of human rights, NHRIs must take a leading role to try and shift that narrative."

Date: 19 February 2018


Graphic: Chairperson of Malaysia's NHRI conducting a media interview

Media Handbook for National Human Rights Institutions

The Media Handbook provides practical advice for NHRIs on engaging the media and using social media to start conversations on human rights issues.


Image credits

  1. Participants in the media and communications workshop - APF/James Iliffe
  2. Participants in the media and communications workshop - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines