Media, Human Rights and Forensic Science

Authored by: Steven Livingston

The Routledge Companion to Media and Human Rights

Print publication date:  June  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138665545
eBook ISBN: 9781315619835
Adobe ISBN:


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Human rights organizations turn to a variety of digital tools and scientific methods when ­investigating potential abuses; they including crowdsourcing on digital networks (McPherson 2015), commercial remote sensing satellites (Livingston 2016), and forensic science (Melton 2014). In this chapter, I argue that digital technology and techniques used by forensic scientists help create public accounts of war crimes and abuse. Most importantly, in their absence, such accounts, conveyed as news stories, would be impossible, leaving abuses and crimes obscured and undiscovered. Secondly, I argue that the scientific nature of the information presented by forensic scientists reinforces claims made by rights groups concerning the circumstances of the death and disappearance of victims. In the face of vociferous pushback and denials from states, groups, and political leaders, claims made by human rights groups are bolstered by science and technology. In the language used in the communication research theory relied on here, in framing contests between the accusers and the accused, scientifically derived evidence is more difficult – though not impossible – to ignore and refute.

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