On using international and local assistance

 

There are a tremendous number of institutions and resources all around you.  These international and local organizations have a mission to help protect you against human rights and free speech abuses.

You must not underestimate the effect of the combined efforts of even two or three of these international organizations, working in partnership with local organizations.  In most cases your own government or even conservative religious organizations or rogue corporations will be extremely sensitive to public opinion. This is particularly true of international public opinion.  We often see evidence that many otherwise brutal dictators back away from extreme actions against journalists because of the effect of international public opinion and the fear of international criticism.   However, other countries like North Korea and Eritrea seem to care little about international public opinion.  

These same international and local organizations can work closely with each other behind the scenes even in your own country bringing resources to bear on your case.  Give these organizations repeated and accurate updates about your case.  Frequently their efforts behind the scenes are having a positive impact which you may or may not be aware of. 

In some cases contacting and engaging with international organizations is dangerous.  Your government or your critics may interpret your communications as working against the interests of the state if you are talking to international organizations.  Being aware of how your government treats engagement with international players is important.  

There are a number of respected human rights organizations that you can rely on.  Especially important among them is IFEX, an umbrella organization of intersupporting human rights organizations, including the Cartoonists Rights Network International.  A good working knowledge of IFEX and other umbrella "organizations of organizations" lets you find resources very conveniently.  Other organizations like ICORN help seriously threatened journalists, cartoonists, and other human rights workers find safe haven outside their own country.  Another IFEX member organization, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), is probably the single most important organization bringing hope and assistance to journalists in trouble.  All of these organizations have their own websites you should explore.  Being familiar with them is part of being properly prepared.   

There is a temptation when working with a number of international institutions to use each one individually.  You may think, "If I ask each one of these institutions to help get me a visa or get charges dropped against me, then I will have more staff members and more institutions working on my behalf."  Also from time to time you may find that you feel one or another of the institutions are working too slowly.  In reality, every one of these institutions is overworked and underfunded and they have other clients who are in as much, if not more, danger than you.  When the same organizations begin to sense that there is a lack of leadership and that you are using other institutions to accomplish the same goals, they might lose interest in your case.  Organizations that are underfunded and understaffed will want to work with the clients that are the most responsive, the most communicative, and the most helpful in helping them develop and stick to a good plan of action.  You must be prepared to help them help you by being a dependable and consistent client.

It is perfectly all right, in fact expected, for you to occasionally remind one of these helping organizations to keep up with your case.  Don't feel embarrassed or that you're bothering them  by reminding them that you are still there, that things are happening to you and that you would like to see some progress on your case.

Using local institutions has both advantages and disadvantages.  Local institutions know local politics the best.  They are in a superior position to help you form a plan because they have done the same thing with other journalists and cartoonists many times in the past.  However, it is also important to know the politics of the local organizations you plan to work with.  In some countries, human rights organizations attract people and policymakers who may have their own political agendas.

In some cases a local helping organization will be asked to defend a journalist or cartoonist whose opinions and whose cartoons they personally dislike or even abhor.  No one is immune to his or her own personal and political preferences.  If you feel that the people you are working with in a local organizations have a vested interest or some personal preference not to defend you to the fullest degree possible, you must try to find some other local organizations that will give you good, objective, and unwavering support.  

If you are in good standing with all of these organizations and you have developed relationships with them prior to ever encountering any problems, then forming a pathway out of trouble will be much easier.

Summary:

  • Working with international helping organizations can be a powerful assistance in your time of need.
  • When working with international organizations you must maintain regular, accurate and honest communication with them.

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