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And the winner is... human rights

I remember my 18th birthday but only just. I remember my 21st better, when I was a reporter on a local paper and I partied not just with my own colleagues but also with our competitors. Such was the, rather pleasant, nature of local newspapers in the early eighties.


Tonight I’ll be surrounded by competing journalists not for my birthday but for the ‘coming of age’ of Amnesty’s annual Media Awards, which celebrate great human rights journalism. These will be the fifth Awards that I’ve been involved in organising and the 18th that Amnesty has run. They’ve become quite an institution.


Of course, the media has changed a great deal in that time, including the local press. Among the guests at my 21st were the team from a local ‘free sheet’ – quite a novelty in those days but the norm now. Indeed, speaking of novelties, the paper I worked for later launched its own free newspaper containing only good news – no, really! Today even the free papers, with their smaller teams, are finding it tough to turn a profit.


And bigger media beasts – national papers and TV channels included – are having to cut costs and reduce their staff numbers as the economic downturn hastens a long-term decline in circulations and audience brought about by the changing media landscape. While I’m on my nostalgia trip, my newspaper office contained not one computer, just a lot of cumbersome and clunky, but rather charming, typewriters.


Obviously that changing media landscape, including as it does websites and blogs like this one, has created many positive developments, but we’ll note this evening the importance of old-style investigative journalism, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Such journalism is vital in throwing a clear light on human rights abuses around the world.


Let’s hope that the Amnesty Media Awards are still around in another 18 years’ time. If they are, they’ll look very different and I will, no doubt, be reflecting wistfully on this period. 

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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