Using the Media Against Human Trafficking

If the public can’t see the problem, it’s difficult to mobilize financial and political support to solve it. For those working to end human trafficking, visibility has been vital to building a vibrant, sustainable movement. Because trafficking is illegal, it is hidden from view, and it has taken more than a decade of media relations work to convince the public that slavery really still exists.

Effective media relations is just as important in persuading the world that slavery can be eradicated, even though it has been with us for thousands of years. Because slavery has many root causes – such as poverty, corruption and gender inequality – political will is needed to implement many of the solutions. News coverage helps to bring to the mainstream a cause like abolition, by engaging people who don’t frequent human rights websites. Millions of potential supporters would take a stand against slavery if they knew it existed and could be overcome. Their collective voice will help anti-slavery efforts to grow and succeed.

Here are some tips for engaging the media in the cause of ending slavery:

Create your own visuals. Train your front-line staff to take photos and videos. Create a library of visuals for media use. Ensure that your staff are also trained in how to interview potential case studies in an appropriate and sensitive way.

Present a complete narrative arc. Find compelling characters and show how they confronted and conquered adversity. Those who have experienced slavery, but are now free, embody success, progress and hope. Those stories are safer and easier to do logistically, and they’re more rewarding for the audience.

Show context and causes. There are reasons that slavery is thriving. A variety of social, economic and political problems make people vulnerable; these include migration, poverty, racial and gender discrimination, governmental corruption, inadequate regulations and legal enforcement, overpopulation and economic globalization. Until these root causes are addressed, survivors may fall back into slavery or others may be enslaved in their place. Being conversant on these trends helps to ensure that your organization is featured in the story along with slavery survivors.

Show solutions. If you present a balanced outlook of causes and cures to journalists, there’s a better chance that they will write a balanced story.

Show connections. Many items today are manufactured by slaves, or contain slavery-tainted raw materials. From coffee to cocoa to cars to cotton to cell phones and computers, the list goes on. It’s important that journalists know that many of their readers/listeners/viewers are directly connected to slavery. It will get the public’s attention.

Build hope. It’s easy for the public to think of people in slavery as lost souls whose lives are broken and cannot be mended. But it isn’t true. People can and do return to normal, fulfilling lives after enslavement, no matter how brutal the experience was. Break the mystique about slaves and slavery. That will go a long way to breaking the back of slavery itself.

Learn more at Terry FitzPatrick’s The Guardian Modern-day Slavery Hub article: How to … use the media to help combat human trafficking.


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