By Mohammad Shamma
February 2011 – it was a regular workday until I received a phone call at four o`clock in the afternoon from Linda Kalash, the director of Tamkeen Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights.
She asked me to go to the center’s office to interview 37 female workers from Sri Lanka who escaped the homes where they worked in after their rights were violated by their employers.
I wrote a story about this, where I tried to find a shelter for these workers to assist the Tamkeen Center. After I wrote this story about specialized shelters for domestic female workers who are in dispute with the law, Tamkeen Center, in collaboration with Human Rights Watch, issued a rights report on the legal status of Asian domestic workers in September 2011.
The Tamkeen Center would not have received this attention without the media’s role in revealing the issue as a violation against a vulnerable group.
The relationship between media and civil society has a mutual benefit. Media relies on sources, studies, expertise and facilitation to reach victims; while civil society aims at mobilizing support for human rights issues through media. There is no material benefit between the two except the common good.
Human trafficking is a multi-country problem whose victims are marginalized. The victims receive no support, except from rights organizations and the free media that protects human rights and believes in the organization’s role. These were some of the themes that were discussed during a specialized session of media’s role in protecting people from human trafficking.
My colleague, Ezzedine El-Natour, wrote stories that were published through the support of JHR and journalist Khaled Al-Qudah, from Al-Rai Newspaper. Ezzedine El-Natour s story was about human trafficking against Asian female workers who were imprisoned until they were deported. Another story, written by Taghreed El-Doghmy, highlighted how difficult it is to prove human trafficking crimes. Many victims don’t receive protection nor compensation due to the absence of clear legal mechanisms.
These two stories were published after our colleagues collected data and conducted interviews with the victims, experts, human rights activists, rights organizations representatives and governmental officials; under the supervision of JHR. They were presented to an audience of Jordanian and South Eastern Asian activists to showcase how stories can enhance the protection and awareness of rights through media.
The audience, mostly from South Eastern Asian countries (India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Philippines), interacted with our media session. Their big concern – the living circumstances of migrant workers.
Hence, it has been an opportunity to exchange knowledge and communication channels to collaborate for future initiatives to follow the track of violations against migrant workers; in their countries and in Jordan.