Human Rights in Survival Mode – new white paper from the TaSC project

The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) is proud to announce the release of a new white paper from the Technology and Social Change project (TaSC) – Human Rights in Survival Mode: Rebuilding Trust and Supporting Digital Workers in the Philippines.

Historically known as the most active civil society in Asia, the Philippines human rights movement has faced an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy under Rodrigo Duterte’s violent regime, forcing the sector to operate in “survival mode” while still burdened with the responsibility of advocating for the many victims of abuses. In this new study on human rights workers in the Philippines, authors Jonathan Corpus Ong, Jeremy Tintiangko, and Rossine Fallorina conducted interviews with human rights workers and their allies in journalism and academia to explore the organizational investments, strategic trade-offs, and emotional and human costs of operating under a hostile regime.

Researchers uncovered a key disconnect: while the human rights sector acknowledged that their brand/reputation was “broken” or “tarnished,” they failed to sufficiently invest in hiring and supporting the communications and technology workers best equipped to mitigate digital harassment and disinformation.

The report invites sectoral inquiry into how to better provide capacity-building and mental health support for human rights workers, especially the communication and technology personnel who are important, if constrained, voices in overall organizational strategy. It also proposes ways in which donors can reorient programming toward helping global South organizations cope with targeted harassment, respond to disinformation narratives, cultivate new champions of human rights principles, and offer mental health support for the digital workers doubly burdened during COVID-19.

About the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
The Shorenstein Center is a research center based at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, with a mission to study and analyze the power of media and technology and its impact on governance, public policy and politics. Research, courses, fellowships, public events and engagement with students, scholars, and journalists form the core of the Center. For more information, visit

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