CIVICUS Toolkits

Guide to Reporting Civic Space: Media Toolkit

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all people, everywhere in the world, have the right to speak out, to organise, and to take action. These rights – the freedoms of association, assembly and expression - give us the freedom to form and join groups, peacefully protest, and advocate for the things we want – and to counter the things we don’t. These freedoms are called `civic space’ and are an essential part of a vibrant democracy; where debate and discussion thrive, and where people are able to contribute to important decisions that affect them.

Across the world there is a growing trend of countries restricting citizens’ freedoms or making the work of civil society groups more difficult and dangerous, for example increased surveillance on ordinary citizens, activists and civil society organisations and targeted attacks and arrests. Furthermore, civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders face escalating intimidation, harassment and reprisals, including imprisonment, for undertaking the work that fights for and protects human rights for us all. This toolkit was produced to be a useful, informative tool for connecting journalists and media with the challenges and opportunities currently happening in civil society. Most importantly, it provides story ideas, angles, and prompts designed to help media and journalists cover these issues better.

The toolkit comprises:

Section 1: provides information about the toolkit and introductory background on civic space.

Section 2: outlines key concepts for reporting civic space, including what makes a story newsworthy, and gender balanced reporting.

Section 3: unpacks the three fundamental freedoms associated with civic space, and offers stories ideas. For each of these freedoms you will find.

  • Summary: short outline each freedom and the main issues faced around the world.
  • Perspectives: ideas for angles and perspectives for different audiences.
  • Humanise the story: suggestions of how to give a local or personal slant to stories, ensure diverse voices are heard.
  • Dig deeper: ideas for more in-depth analysis and investigation.
  • Information resources: background documents, potential sources.
  • Fact boxes, case studies, and media tips from editors and journalists

The toolkit also includes a printable calendar of key dates for media, as well as a free to use infographic.

Media is critical for civics space, to hold governments to account, shine a spotlight on violations, and be a platform for the most marginalised voices to be heard. More than ever before, media and journalists have a vital role to fulfil. The rights to speak out, organise, and take action affect everyone, everywhere. By connecting civil society and journalists, media can provide new and unique stories to readers, viewers, and listening audiences.

Download the toolkit: English | Spanish

Download the Infographic: English | Spanish

Download the printable calendar: English | Spanish

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