Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Playing by the rules

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be found on the United Nations website.

by Cristina Mutchler
edited by Stine Eckert

As a journalist, it is important to be both ethical and lawful when writing editorials especially about such sensitive subjects as the violation of human rights.

The United States is permitted to exercise authority in the protection of its citizens. If the president has gone beyond international law or standards often the activities must be curbed. If the methods are lawful or constitutional, they should be permissible. However, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's attempts to go on the offensive and accuse the United States of wrongdoing does not excuse his violation of international law.

I think it is also a question of what constitutes "torture," as these methods are labeled broadly and we do not necessarily know the exact methods used. As a journalist, I think it is my place to report fairly and accurately on governmental issues and during this transition in leadership, it would not be fair to accuse.

The United States can question the human rights record of any country if it has sufficient verification of the abuses just as other countries may question the human rights issues in the United States. If wiretapping is done pursuant to law there is no question as to its legality or the government's role in pursuing same. The allegations are subject to criticism and must be compared to the standards of international law. I would encourage those who criticize the United States of having a double standard with regards to international human rights to instead help ensure that all countries are playing "by the rules."

The alleged abuses of the United States should be open to investigation. It is understandable that the United States is reacting to 9/11 but the reactions must be tempered by international law. Other countries should also be held to the same standards and should be open to criticism. When reporting about other nations that allegedly violate international law, I think that the focus should be to encourage and ensure that all countries are maintaining the same standard for human rights.

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