WikiProject Human Rights
In celebration of Human Rights Day, we checked out WikiProject Human Rights. Started in February 2006, the project has grown to include over 3,000 articles, including 12 Featured Articles, 3 Featured Lists, 66 Good Articles, a large collection of Did You Know entries, and a few mentions "in the news". The project monitors listings of popular pages and cleanup tags. We interviewed Khazar2, Cirt, and Boud.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Human Rights? Have you contributed to any of the project's Featured or Good Articles?
- Khazar2: Most of my Wikipedia editing focuses on attacked or imprisoned journalists and activists, so for me it was a no-brainer. I've contributed to three GAs from the project, all dealing with journalists—Azimzhan Askarov, Jesús Blancornelas, and Murder of Udin—and somewhere around 80 DYK articles. For me, documenting human rights cases has a more obvious real-world payoff than other areas of Wikipedia where I could be working. Public awareness of a prisoner's case can make a difference in her legal situation, release date, or access to medical treatment; public awareness of alleged threats against a journalist can save her life; public awareness of an alleged massacre can contribute to its later investigation. I work equally hard to include the responses of the groups and governments in question, of course, but in most of these cases the governments rely not on argument but on silence and censorship. Simply to document the claims of both sides becomes an act of resistance.
- Cirt: A majority of my contributions towards improving quality of articles relate to human rights, more specifically freedom of speech. These include the Featured quality: Portal:Journalism, and Good Article quality entries on books about freedom of speech: Cyber Rights by Mike Godwin, Freedom of Expression by Kembrew McLeod, Free Speech, "The People's Darling Privilege" by Michael Kent Curtis, Beyond the First Amendment by Samuel Peter Nelson, and most recently Freedom for the Thought That We Hate by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Lewis.
- Boud: I've worked on several human-rights-related English-language Wikipedia articles when I felt I could make a useful contribution. My general motivation for working on HR-related articles is probably similar to the reasons why lots of other people think that human rights are important. In fact, whether or not all Wikipedia editors are motivated by Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our editing constitutes a direct contribution to the practical implementation of Article 26. Someone else would have to check if any articles I have been involved with became FA/GAs – that's not my priority.
Are there any significant gaps in Wikipedia's coverage of historical events, publications, biographies, and organizations related to human rights? Do some subjects, time periods, or geographic regions receive more attention than others? What can be done to remedy these inequalities?
- Khazar2: Any human rights situation in which the US has a hand is generally better covered than others. (A good rule of thumb is that if Noam Chomsky has written about it, it's been covered by Wikipedians.) Coverage of human rights issues in Africa is particularly weak, but Wikipedia seems to struggle with African coverage generally. I'd love to see our "Human Rights in Country X" articles standardized and improved. Ideally, this could be done through collaboration between editors at WP Human Rights and the WikiProjects for individual countries.
- Cirt: More recent events generally receive better coverage than historical issues. I'd like to see better quality coverage of landmark cases related to freedom of speech, for example: U.S. Supreme Court cases including New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), New York Times Co. v. United States (1971), Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974), and Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988), are all ripe for quality improvement drives.
- Boud: Obviously (subqns 1 and 2). I think that the Wikipedia guidelines are mature enough that our content is to some degree less imbalanced than the known biases of the mainstream Western media human rights coverage that are empirically well-established by the Propaganda Model. Similarity to the propaganda model comes from the need to source information (one of the five filters of the model) – the coverage by mainstream media (at least the US mainstream media) is consistent with the model; the coverage by big human rights NGOs is less strongly constrained by the foreign policy interests of the US, UK, France, Russia and P.R.China and consists of detailed reports rather than 30-second sound-bites (or 2000-word article-bites) but still is clearly correlated with the US/UK/France interests; coverage by smaller, local NGOs exists but is rarer, hard to find, and often the English versions are on poorly maintained websites. The difference comes mainly from radically transparent, structured discussion. WP:BIAS gives a Wikipedia community summary of the problem.
- Subqn 3: Since we don't want original research, there's no magic solution to the problem. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that most of us cannot edit (as of 2011 ). WP:BIAS does makes many recommendations.
The project is home to several former Featured and Good Articles that were reassessed and demoted over the past few years. Has there been a concerted effort to return these articles to FA or GA status? What has been the greatest challenge to both improving and maintaining articles related to human rights?
- Khazar2: I can't speak to past demotions, but I am starting a project to get some of WP Human Rights' most-viewed articles up to GA status. First up is Pussy Riot, the Russian punk rockers jailed for a stunt performance criticizing President Vladimir Putin in a church.
- Cirt: After some research at Category:Wikipedia former featured articles, some previously featured articles relevant to human rights that could be helped by a quality improvement drive include: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Dred Scott v. Sandford, Federalist No. 10, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gender role, Lawrence v. Texas, Nineteen Eighty-Four (TV programme), Origins of the American Civil War, Paragraph 175, Race (human classification), Roe v. Wade, and Same-sex marriage.
Do human rights topics elicit any disagreements or debates on Wikipedia articles? How does the project deal with these issues?
- Cirt: Most certainly debates and disagreement occur at times on talk pages of articles related to human rights, and the best way to deal with these situations is the dispute resolution process, for example, hopefully issues can be resolved at the third opinion or request for comment level.
- Boud: Arab-Israeli conflict issues are AFAIK the most intense human-rights related issues that en-Wikipedia has had to deal with. The arbitration decision, which includes an automatic validity of WP:1RR for any Arab-Israeli-related articles is a nice example of how meta-processes on the en-Wikipedia can stabilise extremely intense, long-lasting editorial conflicts without sacrificing Wikipedia's basic principles. Arab Spring articles have had quite some talk page energy invested in proposed article title changes (and a few non-consensus title changes!), but IMHO they have generally been well dealt with by reference to standard Wikipedia principles.
Has the project had any difficulty acquiring images for articles? Are there any sound, film, or other media clips that would be useful for illustrating articles under the project's scope?
- Khazar2: Yes! Many of our articles are about politically sensitive cases in countries where media and internet are restricted, so you can imagine the difficulties involved.
- Cirt: Well, you never know until you try to reach out to the copyright holder of the media. For example, recently I was able to obtain free-use license confirmation of the Free Speech Flag (File:Sample 09-F9 protest art, Free Speech Flag by John Marcotte.svg). The Free Speech Flag was created during the AACS encryption key controversy and has come to symbolize freedom of speech more generally, particularly on the Internet.
- Boud: There are almost no images for the Saudi Arabian human-rights-related protest articles. Photos on e.g. Twitter are certainly available. With some time and patience, IMHO it should be quite practical for Wikipedians to explain to the photos' authors what free-licensing (in particular CC-BY-SA) is, why it's insufficient for the authors to just "put the photos on the Internet", and how to go through the practical details if the authors decided they wished to provide some Wikimedia Commons images. In that case we could get plenty of images, or at least enough for a few per article. But it would take time and patience – understanding free licensing is complicated in practice, and saying "RTFM" to photo authors is not likely to be productive.
Does the membership of WikiProject Human Rights overlap with any other projects? What other WikiProjects may be interested in collaborating with WikiProject Human Rights?
- Khazar2: WikiProject Human Rights overlaps most obviously with the country and regional WikiProjects, and assistance from editors at those, who can often give regional and cultural context, is a big help. The project also overlaps heavily with WP Journalism, religion WikiProjects, and the newly-created WP Freedom of speech.
- Cirt: I'd echo Khazar2 above in emphasizing we have the recently started WikiProject, WP Freedom of speech, which dovetails nicely with human rights as well. Interested editors can join the Freedom of speech WikiProject at our participants subpage, and join in discussion about potential collaborative quality improvement projects at the Freedom of speech WikiProject talk page.
Is WikiProject Human Rights planning anything for Human Rights Day? What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
- Khazar2: The project's biggest need is members! Our active membership is in decline, and it would be great to have a few more hands on deck to help out with article improvement drives, third opinions, etc. Editors with specialized knowledge (countries, religions, etc.) who are interested in collaborations would also be very helpful.
- Cirt: A nice collaboration for Human Rights Day might be the article Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I'm not seeing a list or section on the the Human rights WikiProject page, but the Freedom of speech WikiProject has a useful "Things you can do" list of "Open tasks" and we'd be most appreciative if editors wished to help out in any way they're interested.
- Boud: Subqns 2/3: helping today: IMHO Women's rights in Syria would be a good article to get started, and there should be a fair chance of finding editors willing to help. Political leaders of different sides inside and outside of Syria are justifying their actions or inactions on the basis of Syrians' human rights (without necessarily using the term explicitly), but en-Wikipedia (including the human rights in Syria article) doesn't (yet) know anything about the human rights of half the Syrian population...
- If someone has the patience to contact photographers, explaining licensing logic and practical procedures, obtaining Commons material for illustrating the Saudi Arabian human-rights-related protest articles would be useful. My suggestion would be to start with Twitter and follow through by whatever means people are happy to use for communication: Eastern Province 1 2, national 1, 2, 3.
We really don't know who we interviewed for next week's article. All we know is that they're German and enjoy video games. In the meantime, have fun in the archive.
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