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A Free Guide to Reporting Civic Space: Media Toolkit

This toolkit was produced by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, as part of the Civic Space Initiative (CSI). A partnership between CIVICUS, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), ARTICLE 19, and the World Movement for Democracy, The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) is working to protect and expand civic space by fostering an enabling legal environment for civil society.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all people, everywhere in the world, have the right to speak out, to organise, and to take action. These rights – the freedoms of association, assembly and expression – give us the freedom to form and join groups, peacefully protest, and advocate for the things we want – and to counter the things we don’t. These freedoms are called `civic space’ and are an essential part of a vibrant democracy; where debate and discussion thrive, and where people are able to contribute to important decisions that affect them.

Across the world there is a growing trend of countries restricting citizens’ freedoms or making the work of civil society groups more difficult and dangerous, for example increased surveillance on ordinary citizens, activists and civil society organisations and targeted attacks and arrests. Furthermore, civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders face escalating intimidation, harassment and reprisals, including imprisonment, for undertaking the work that fights for and protects human rights for us all. This toolkit was produced to be a useful, informative tool for connecting journalists and media with the challenges and opportunities currently happening in civil society. Most importantly, it provides story ideas, angles, and prompts designed to help media and journalists cover these issues better.

The toolkit comprises:

Section 1: provides information about the toolkit and introductory background on civic space.

Section 2: outlines key concepts for reporting civic space, including what makes a story newsworthy, and gender balanced reporting.

Section 3: unpacks the three fundamental freedoms associated with civic space, and offers stories ideas. For each of these freedoms you will find.


Media is critical for civics space, to hold governments to account, shine a spotlight on violations, and be a platform for the most marginalised voices to be heard. More than ever before, media and journalists have a vital role to fulfil. The rights to speak out, organise, and take action affect everyone, everywhere. By connecting civil society and journalists, media can provide new and unique stories to readers, viewers, and listening audiences.

You can download this guide for free here.

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