Key Terms

  • Article

    Clause, or section, or part of a treaty.

  • Bill of rights

    Formal declaration of rights and freedoms.

  • Charter

    A document that forms an organization and defines its guiding practices and principles.

  • Covenant, Convention, Treaty

    Words used to refer to formal agreements between states (countries) that are legally binding. “Treaty” will generally be used in this toolkit to refer to such documents.

  • Crimes against humanity

    Crimes that are perpetrated by state or nonstate actors, or that result from government policy, or that are tolerated or condoned by government or others in authority, in peacetime or in conflict. They are not single events, but are systematic and widespread, and include murder, torture, rape and other sexual violence and political, racial and religious persecution.

  • Crimes of aggression

    “The planning, preparation, initiation or execution by a person in a leadership position of an act of aggression (Rome Statute)”. They defined an act of aggression as the use of armed force by one state against another state without the justification of self-defence or authorization by the Security Council of the United Nations. Under the Kampala agreement, the ICC may not try cases involving crimes of aggression until 2017, when states activate the agreement.

  • Cultural relativists

    They argue that human rights were developed by Western countries and are based on Western morality. They should therefore not be imposed on non-Western societies that have different histories, cultures and levels of development.

  • Digital security

    A combination of tools and habits that users can use to help prevent others from secretly monitoring their actions online, accessing or tampering with their electronically-stored information or communications, and interfering with their electronic devices or programs.

  • Disinformation

    Inaccurate or false information that is deliberately spread.

  • First generation rights

    Concern liberty and participation in political life.They are fundamentally civil and political in nature. They limit the power of the state over citizens and aim to prevent abuse by those in power.

  • Five Ws + H

    The questions “who, what, when, where, why and how,” which are the basis for almost all interviews and stories, no matter what the situation or topic.

  • Gender

    The way in which we give people different roles, characteristics and status in society, based on their biological sex.

  • Gender stereotypes

    Simplistic generalizations that attribute certain qualities to all women or men without regard for accuracy or truth. When media reproduce stereotypes, they reinforce them in the public mind and can deepen inequality, stigma and prejudice. By challenging gender stereotypes, media are fulfilling their obligations under international human rights law. Media that challenge gender stereotypes are also in a stronger position to challenge governments to fulfil their obligations with respect to gender.

  • Genocide

    The deliberate destruction of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group. Examples include the murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime of Germany (1933-1945); the Rwanda genocide of 1994, and the Srebenica genocide of July 1995.

  • Human rights

    A set of norms, or standards of behavior, that are intended to protect us so that we are able to live full lives, free from fear and abuse. They are rights that belong to all people, just by virtue of being human.

  • Human rights defender

    People who, individually or with others, take action to promote or protect human rights.

  • Impunity

    Exemption from punishment. In international human rights law, impunity means the failure to punish perpetrators of human rights abuses and violation. Impunity is a denial of the victim’s right to justice.

  • Inalienable

    They cannot be taken away from us, except, in some circumstances, through fair legal processes. For example, the right to freedom may be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law, but imprisonment without trial is a violation of a person’s right to freedom.

  • Indivisible

    One cannot separate one right from another, or prioritize one right over another. For example, the right to a fair trial and the right to education are equal human rights. The right to a fair trial is not more important than the right to education.

  • Inherent

    Human rights are natural or inborn to all human beings.

  • Interdependent

    All rights depend on each other. For example, the right to vote depends on the right to freedom of movement; the right to life depends on the right to health care, the right to freedom of expression depends on the right of access to information.

  • International human rights law

    The international body of law that is designed to protect and promote human rights.

  • International law

    Laws that govern and regulate relationships between states.

  • Interrelated

    All rights relate to each other; there are groups (or families) of rights; many treaties have the same rights and common characteristics and principles.

  • Multilateral

    Between three or more parties. A multilateral treaty is therefore an agreement between three or more states.

  • Negative right

    Your right not to be interfered with; for example, the government may not take away your right to freedom of expression, to marry the person of your choice or to have a family.

  • News sense

    The ability to recognize what will make a good story: whether a story may impact people’s lives, attract their interest or attention, or help them make better decisions. Journalists develop this sense through experience over time.

  • News values

    The qualities that make a story newsworthy and likely to attract audience interest. This may include impact, public interest, timeliness, proximity, currency, and novelty, among other qualities.

  • Norm

    Something that is usual, typical, or standard.

  • Nullify

    To nullify a signature is to revoke it, or to “unsign.”

  • Official line

    A position taken up by an institution which the public is intended to believe; the institution’s spokespeople (official sources) and messages will consistently reinforce the official line.

  • Optional protocol

    An addition to a treaty, covenant or convention which a state has the option of signing.

  • Positive Right

    Your right to receive goods or services; for example, welfare support, healthcare or a place to live.

  • Public relations

    Information put out by an institution to improve its reputation and win public goodwill.

  • Ratify, accept, approve or accede

    These all mean more or less the same thing. A state that ratifies, accepts, approves or accedes to a treaty, covenant or convention agrees to it and becomes a States Party.

  • Rights-based approach

    A way of working that ensures that the given approach is based on human rights and promotes human rights.

  • Second generation rights

    Rights concerned with social, economic and cultural equality. They include the equal rights of everyone to education, healthcare, and housing, and to take part in cultural activities.

  • Sex

    The physical biological difference between men and women.

  • Sovereignty

    A sovereign state is an independent state with an effective government within a defined territory or geographic area.

  • Spin

    Interpretation of issues or events to persuade the public to view a certain public figure, organization, law, action or set of actions favorably. Spin usually involves deliberate manipulation of the facts. People who develop spin are referred to as “spin doctors.”.

  • States party

    Once a state signs a treaty, that state agrees to, or is party to, the treaty and is called a States Party.

  • Statute

    A law.

  • Third generation rights

    Concern fraternity, meaning brotherhood or solidarity, and are sometimes called “solidarity” rights. They include the right of everyone to a sustainable, clean and healthy environment, to social development and to other collective or group, rather than individual, rights.

  • Treaty

    Another word, more commonly used, for convention or covenant, meaning a formal agreement between states.

  • Treaty-based

    An institution or mechanism established on the basis of an agreement signed by two or more states.

  • UN System

    All the international organizations, treaties and conventions that were created by the UN, and which the UN manages and enforces.

  • United Nations (UN)

    An international organization to promote peace and human rights which was created by the Allies and lead by the US, the UK and the former Soviet Untion after World War II.

  • Universal

    Belonging to, or affecting, all people.

  • Universalists

    People who argue that ideals like liberty and security belong to all of us. They are critical of cultural relativist arguments, which they see as an attempt to justify oppression of minorities or defend harmful cultural practices.

  • Values of journalism

    The core ethical values that guide journalists throughout the world in the practice of their profession. The precise number and definition of these values varies across different journalistic codes, but they generally include truth, accuracy, independence, fairness, and commitment to minimize harm.

  • Vox pops

    Short interviews, mostly used by radio and TV (but newspapers can do them, too) to get many voices talking about a single issue. Vox pops are usually conducted in public places, with the journalist approaching people randomly while keeping diversity (race, gender, age) in mind. Each person is usually asked the same question(s).

  • War Crimes

    Crimes committed in wartime that violate the rules of war. These include murder; the ill-treatment or deportation of civilians to labor camps; killing and ill- treatment of prisoners of war; the destruction of cities, towns and villages and any other acts of destruction not arising out of military necessity or to protect civilians.