HRW strategy based on incomparable advocacy

Editor,This is with reference to the opinion piece, “The media should rethink its relationship with HRW” (The New Times, March 29).


This is with reference to the opinion piece, “The media should rethink its relationship with HRW” (The New Times, March 29).

The entire HRW strategy is based on one factor: incomparable advocacy. To build capacity in this area, the organisation has invested heavily in media relations, in lobbying governments and international organisations as well as in mobilising extremely wealthy and well-connected donors who provide HRW not only multimillion dollar checques each, but also whose own influence with national and global decision-makers can be leveraged in the interest of HRW’s campaigns, often under the radar.

Those who cannot be persuaded to align with the HRW are then bludgeoned into impotence or silence by the organisation’s powerful advocacy network of adherents, associates or media allies.

And success in destroying non-cooperating officials at the international or national level underlines the message: it pays to collaborate with HRW just as it is very costly to stand in its way or even fail to cooperate when it wants something.

The other characteristic strategy of HRW is to generate an echo chamber effect. The organisation or its partner(s) generate a talking point which a partner takes up and repeats validating the original sources claim, this process is repeating ad infinitum creating the impression that the claim, no matter how outlandish, is incontestably true.

And yet if you were to deconstruct the process, you would find that the really knowledgeable participants in this game were very few, they just leveraged their advocacy network to create a snowball effect that seemingly validated an otherwise ridiculous claim.

We saw a demonstration of HRW’s ability to do this around the recent hysteria it’s Chief DRC operative Anneke Van Woudenberg managed to generate around the M23 rebellion in Eastern Congo, with people who should know better swallowing a narrative that can only be termed as entirely risible.

But HRW was able to mobilise around a very simple narrative, get UN officials who needed to find scapegoats for their own glaring failures in Eastern DRC, recruit NGO-affiliated and otherwise unknown and mediocre UN “experts”, activate their associates in the UN chain of command, and feed simple talking points to their close media allies to reproduce and disseminate almost word by word and, presto, a media firestorm was born!

I am not a conspiracy adherent, but I have no doubt HRW and similar organisations whose sources of funding is opaque and whose influence over policy makers is below the radar are extremely dangerous. Their unaccountable influence is antithetical to democratic principles and must be checked.

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