Short course

Human Rights and Journalism


The details
Human Rights and Journalism
Human Rights journalists

Four 4.5-hour modules on 4, 5, 11 and 12 September 2023.

The Essex Human Rights Centre presents a live online course on human rights journalism.

The course seeks to provide participants with a realistic introduction to ways of addressing the ethical and practical challenges of working in an increasingly complex world, where information is argued over, and may have grave implications.

Applications are now closed for this short course. For enquiries about future events, please email:

Human Rights Centre on social media:

Course format

We will be delivering our course in an online live, interactive format, 18 hours split over two weeks (from 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time);

Monday 4 September 2023

  • 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time

Tuesday 5 September 2023

  • 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time

Monday 11 September 2023

  • 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time

Tuesday 12 September 2023

  • 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time

Apply for the course

Applications for our Human Rights and Journalism Course are now closed.

For enquiries about future events, please contact


The Human Rights and Journalism course will cover a range of topics related to the field of journalism and reporting, looking at the principles and practicalities relating to journalism in different contexts, including in conflict zones, in authoritarian regimes, and in populist democracies.

Taught by Steve Crawshaw, an experienced former foreign correspondent, author and senior human rights advocate, the programme runs over four days. It consists of a mixture of lectures, discussions and interactive exercises.

The course seeks to provide participants with an introduction to ways of addressing the ethical and practical challenges of working in an increasingly complex world, where information is argued over, and where the stakes can be very high.

All participants who successfully complete the course will receive a University of Essex, Human Rights Centre certificate. The design of the course requires limiting enrolment to a maximum of 20 participants.

Meet the course facilitator

Steve Crawshaw was a journalist at The Independent, which he joined at launch in 1986. His roles there included chief foreign correspondent, foreign news editor, Russia and East Europe Editor and Germany bureau chief. He covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Balkan wars. Other countries he reported from included China, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

From The Independent, he moved to become the first UK director and then UN advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (2002-2010). He was then international advocacy director and Director of the Office of the Secretary General at Amnesty International (2010-2018). He was policy and advocacy director at Freedom from Torture (2018-2022). He is now writing Prosecuting the Powerful,  a book on war crimes and international justice, including reporting from Ukraine.

He is a trustee of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and chair of trustees at Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID).

He is the author of Goodbye to the USSR (1992), Easier Fatherland: Germany and the Twenty-First Century (2004; German edition, 2005), Small Acts of Resistance (foreword by Václav Havel, 2010), and Street Spirit: The Power of Protest and Mischief (foreword by Ai Weiwei, 2016). Prosecuting the Powerful (The Bridge Street Press) is scheduled for publication in 2025. 

He studied Russian and German at the universities of Oxford and St Petersburg (Leningrad), and was a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights, London School of Economics.

Teaching programme

The course will draw on experience of media behaviours and responsibilities in different contexts around the world. Discussion based on the different experiences in participants’ own countries will be welcome.

The Human Rights and Journalism course is held over four days, for four and a half hours per day (from 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time), over two weeks and consists of a mixture of lectures, interactive exercises and discussion.

Week One

  • Day one: Monday 4 September 2023 - 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time
  • Day two: Tuesday 5 September 2023  - 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time

Week Two

  • Day Three: Monday 11 September 2023 - 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time
  • Day Four: Tuesday 12 September 2023 - 11.00 – 15.30 UK Time

Each Module runs for 4.5 hours with a half hour break: 

  • 11am - 1pm
  • 1.30pm - 3.30pm

For ease of global access, the course will be held virtually. There may also be reading outside of those hours. Participants are advised to allow additional time for this.

Programme summary

The teaching programme will address the following themes:

Day 1: Introduction. In journalism, why do human rights matter?

  • Introduction to the course and objectives
  • The fragile and changing world we live in. 

Responsibility and truth in a “post-truth world”. Models to condemn, models to admire? What sort of journalism do we most want to achieve? What is the difference between “straight news” reporting and campaigning journalism? Do both have a role, if so how and when? Calling out lies: how best to do it and when? Sources of news: what matters most in different countries: Radio? TV? Print? Online? Social media? How much has that changed, how much does it vary in different parts of the world?

Day 2: Truth to power: when things go wrong

Reporting on atrocities, avoiding incitement and “hate media” : Humanity, “fair” coverage, context; reducing vs increasing likelihood of violence/abuses/conflict

  • “Objectivity” vs taking a stand. Where are the appropriate borders?
  • Information, disinformation, “alternative facts”, in autocracies and democracies

Day 3: Covering conflict. Human rights abuses, war crimes, humanitarian disasters, international humanitarian law

  • Security issues, mitigating risks
  • What readers most need. Sustaining interest, avoiding reader/viewer “fatigue”. Reporting on war crimes that may contribute towards accountability in a court of law

Day 4: New ways of reporting information

  • Social media – what has changed, what has not changed?
  • Digital documentation, open-source investigation: Challenges and opportunities
  • Wrap-up and conclusions

Learning outcomes

Why take this course?

In taking this course participants will:

  • Gain insights into the intersections between good journalism and respect for human rights, including based on practical examples
  • Understand the pitfalls of biased journalism, the benefits of fair journalism, and how to tell the difference
  • Acquire a good understanding of the role of journalism in helping pave the way for accountability for mass atrocities


The content of the course is tailored for those who are already working or plan to work as journalists, either in established print, broadcast or online media or as independent creators of online content.

The course is delivered entirely in English. Thus, you are required to have a good command of spoken and written English.

The application form includes a brief questionnaire regarding the basis and extent of your journalistic experience and credentials, which you are required to complete as part of your application.


The Fees for the Human Rights and Journalism course are;

Fee type Early bird (until 14/7/2023) Standard (15/7/2023 - 25/8/2023)
Full fee/ Commercial participants  £800 £950
Essex student  £562.50 £675
Essex staff / alumni £600 £720
Non-Essex student £600 £720
Non-Essex academic £675 £850 
NGO / charity £700 £850 

Applications for this short course are now closed.

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Apply now

Applications are now open for the Human Rights and Journalism course. Complete the online form to submit your application.

Apply here
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