By: Mariya-Kvitlana Tsap, JHR Intern
From the age of 10 when my mom joined the Orange Revolution in the dead of winter in Ukraine, I have been drawn to journalism and social justice. I believe that an internship with Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) was an extension of these deeply entrenched passions of mine which is why I didn’t hesitate to apply to JHR amongst a sea of other wonderful placements. To my surprise, JHR ended up being so much more than I had expected, leaving me with stories which will have a lasting impact. Although JHR is applauded for its inspiring work, I had a unique opportunity to see the grind behind the scenes and to work with the most supportive and encouraging team.
My work with JHR has been very multifaceted from conducting research on women’s rights and freedom of the media in countries like Tanzania, Syria, and Jordan to working on the Annual Report and assisting with administrative tasks for the Indigenous Reporters Program (IRP). On the regular I was astonished by the dedication and bravery of trainers and journalists, proving that there are no bounds to journalism. Thinking about instances that have really stood out to me, two cases come to mind which have been meeting Rodney Sieh and contributing to the IRP program.
“On the regular I was astonished by the dedication and bravery of trainers and journalists, proving that there are no bounds to journalism.”
I had the pleasure of giving Rodney, a Massey College Fellow, a tour of Toronto before the Night for Rights event and in those two hours touring, my mind was blown away. Rodney is a Liberian newspaper editor who was sentenced to 5,000 years in prison for pursuing and publishing a story about the government’s corruption. Speaking with Rodney was mind-opening as I was reminded of my privilege to live in Canada and to share in the freedom of speech which is too often taken for granted. Since the time I met Rodney, I reinforced my dedication to Journalists for Human Rights which caused me to hustle and contribute all I could with the time I had with JHR.
I was also very inspired by the IRP program and its goal of training Indigenous journalists to make their voices heard in mainstream media. Aside from offering journalism training in Northern Ontario and abroad, JHR also provides training to Canadian news publishers such as the Toronto Star and Metro, universities and colleges such as Carleton University and Seneca College about proper ways to report on Indigenous stories in the media. My role was to analyze and input data from all the feedback sheets into a database received after these presentations.
To my surprise, I learned that 87% of journalism students have not been trained on proper ways to report on Indigenous stories or their knowledge dates back to elementary school or high school. Shocking right? What reassures me though is that 92% of students have stated that they felt prepared and comfortable after the presentation to report on Indigenous issues or to enter Indigenous communities. Educating future media experts is JHR’s mission and evidently, it is very successful at it, but as a student I hope that this responsibility will be furthered by universities and colleges.
My experience with JHR has been a defining moment of my 3rd year at the University of Toronto. This was my first time being involved with a one of a kind organization. From working with an amazing team to meeting some of the most inspiring individuals, I can define the work of JHR in one word—crucial! I am forever grateful for this opportunity and the ways in which it has changed my outlook on international affairs and international development.