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UT to hold international conference on human rights and communication

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, veteran human rights activists, scholars and journalists from around the world will gather at The University of Texas at Austin on Oct. 16-18 to discuss how best to get the word out internationally about human rights.

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AUSTIN, Texas — On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, veteran human rights activists, scholars and journalists from around the world will gather at The University of Texas at Austin on Oct. 16-18 to discuss how best to get the word out internationally about human rights.

The goal of the “Communicating Human Rights Internationally” conference is to help clarify the meaning of human rights in an increasingly complex world and plot strategies for communicating information about those rights in a fast-changing media world.

“For people concerned about human rights, understanding media and communication issues in the contemporary world is literally a matter of life and death,” said John Downing, a professor of radio-TV-film at UT and one of the conference organizers. “Ending human rights abuses requires much more careful honing of methods of mass communication.”

Downing said the conference will be distinctive in the way it will pool information from many sources on successes and failures in spreading the word about human rights issues and abuses.

Among the speakers at the conference will be Jennifer Davis of the Africa Fund; international law specialist Beth Stephens of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Gillian Caldwell of the Video Witness Program; Xiao Qiang, executive director of Human Rights Watch in China; economist and political commentator Edward Herman; Amy Goodman, foreign correspondent and host of Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now”; Chilean poet and activist Marjorie Agosin; and journalists from The New York Times, CNN, the Houston Chronicle and other media.

The conference — which has been endorsed by such groups as Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, Article 19, Index on Censorship, and Human Rights Quarterly — is free and open to the public. For the schedule and more detailed information, call (512) 471-6680, or check the conference web site at http://www.utexas.edu/coc/rtf/chri.