Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

The second question in the 5WS+H is WHAT. When collecting information on human rights violations, ask “what happened?” What do you know about the situation beyond all reasonable doubt? Can you confirm certain facts with multiple sources? Are there other pieces of information that you cannot confirm? In your reporting, include any corroborating information, which is the evidence and background information you have collected that supports your “what happened” statement.

When answering the “what”, remember to be objective, impartial, and unbiased. To ensure that your personal prejudices do not affect your reporting, present all sides of the story, even if you believe one side more than the other.

Try not to judge the information you collect based on your personal opinions. Instead, report just the facts (those that explain what happened and can be confirmed with multiple, credible sources) and claims (what people say happened). Always attribute facts and claims to their sources.

Test Your Knowledge!

Practice identifying the “what” by reading the following passage and creating two short lists: one of facts and the other of claims. If you have three credible sources to support a claim, you may assume it is a fact. While it is impossible to be 100 percent sure that an event occurred (unless you saw it with your own eyes), the 3-source rule acts allows you to be as accurate as humanly possible while ensuring you are separating the facts from claims.

Write your lists of facts and claims and click “next” to check your answers.

“Iran has been accused of torturing to death a blogger who was arrested last week for criticising the Islamic republic on Facebook […] Kaleme, a news website close to the opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, was the first to report the blogger's death. Iran's state media have largely refrained from reporting on Beheshti's case but the site Baztab, affiliated to Mohsen Rezaei, a former senior commander of the Revolutionary Guard, confirmed his death. "Sattar Beheshti, who was arrested by Fata [cyber] police, has died while being interrogated," Baztab reported. Before his arrest, Beheshti had complained on his blog of being threatened by the authorities. "They threatened me yesterday that my mother would wear black because I don't shut my mouth," he wrote. Beheshti had been arrested previously for his activism.” (Source)