Accepted paper:

Human rights NGOs' access to the public sphere in Mexico: collaborations with and circumnavigations of the mainstream media


Ella McPherson (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This paper identifies why and how human rights NGOs access the public sphere in Mexico. It identifies opportunities and obstacles the mainstream media pose for this access, as well as corresponding strategies NGOs adopt for collaborating with or circumnavigating the media.

Paper long abstract:

This paper draws on my media ethnography of human rights reporting practices at Mexican newspapers and human rights NGOs to identify why and how these NGOs access the public sphere. In doing so, it sheds light on the understudied strategies that civil society actors and journalistic sources adopt to reach publics, whether by collaborating with the mainstream media or by circumnavigating them. Human rights NGOs consider access to the public sphere a vital aspect of their labour for generating public pressure to mitigate violations. Their traditional reliance on the mass media is limited by the fact that sceptical media are reluctant to source human rights NGOs. This is because NGOs are facing an endemic credibility crisis rooted in discrediting discourses, alleging corruption, propagated by the targets of NGO investigations. Human rights NGOs have devised strategies to overcome this situation. They are building up their credibility through personal relationships with reporters or via association with credible institutions or individuals. They are also harnessing ICTs to engage in parajournalistic (Schudson 2003) activities, which either can facilitate collaboration with the mainstream media or can allow NGOs to circumnavigate them altogether in their quest for mediated publics.

panel P43
Media and public interest in 21st century Latin America