Human Rights Activist Wines and Dines at Fairfield

Princess Diana died in a car accident in 1997, and newspapers around the world scrambled to get a story on it.  Newsweek magazine was no different.

One boss told his writer to go to the South of France and write up an article which recreated in print what Princess Di had done the day she died—what she wore, where she went and what she ate.

What did that journalist tell her boss?

“No.”

Carroll Bogert then left her position as a journalist because she felt it was time to move on.  She joined Human Rights Watch (HRW), where she is now the associate director.

Human Rights Watch activist Carroll Bogert

At an informal pizza dinner with Dr. James Simon’s journalism students, Bogert talked about the ways in which journalism and human rights activism work closely with each other and the experiences she had from both sides.

Though she had only high praises for Newsweek, Bogert decided to move on to human rights activism because she saw the disappointing side of journalism that puts pleasing readers first. She also expressed that she wanted to “get out of the bleachers and join the game” and not “stand in the sidelines.”

According to Bogert, human rights activists share similar ‘DNA’ with journalists; both have the same intent to spread information and make the public more aware of issues.

Instead of collecting and reporting news, however, human rights organizations advocate the information provided and continue to strive for a change, Bogert said. HRW calls for political freedom and protection from the cruelty that is present in war-torn countries, according to its website.

Activism is not meant to beautify horrific discoveries; instead, HRW seeks to make ‘gritty realities’ more comprehensible to the public.

Bogert said, “HRW is creating its own journalism…I’m cautious to use the term ‘journalism’…I use the word ‘dips’—digestible information products.”

Bogert believes that facts speak for themselves and that the issues covered by HRW do not need any entertaining factors like some mainstream media has today. “We have a very sober tone; we try not to be super-emotional. There is a real premium on sobriety,” Bogert said.

Despite the different tasks of journalism and human rights, media still helps activism. In early February, HRW investigated several cases of rape in Papua New Guinea. Women were allegedly raped by company security personnel working at a Barrick Gold mine, which is also owned by the world’s largest gold producer.

Activists alerted the news organizations with which they had contact and brought global attention to the acts of sexual violence that were being kept under wraps.

“We need the big guy,” Bogert admitted. She said that she has legitimacy and credibility in her work when several big news corporations can back her word. Also, money for the non-profit organization is raised by the attention that newspapers give HRW.

Before working for HRW, Bogert worked as a correspondent on The Washington Post’s Beijing Bureau, and later reported for Newsweek magazine. She also worked in China and other areas of Southeast Asia, and eventually became an editor and international correspondent in New York. Along the way, Bogert learned to speak French, Russian and Mandarin.

Bogert will be spending time with students and faculty in special classes and seminars to support Women’s History Month and raise awareness about global issues. Bogert is scheduled to speak at the Quick Center for the Open VISIONS forum on Wednesday, March 10, at 8 p.m.

Published March 9, 2011 in The Mirror

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