Amnesty International is one of the best known human rights organizations despite being only 40 years old. The organization has received the Nobel Peace Prize as well as the United Nations Human Rights Award. Its focus initially was on prisoners of conscience; today, its mandate includes human rights in general and address “non-state actors” as well. Information is key to its mission and its strategyùthe organization gathers, collates and disseminates information while maintaining an ostensibly neutral stance with regard to political and economic systems. This research considers the use of information in promulgating the organization’s mission and the role of information in the organization’s success.

Amnesty International was organized in the 1960s during the Cold War in response to political prisoners. Specifically, two Portuguese students were sentenced to seven years in prison for raising a toast to freedom; this was the event that sparked the formation of the organization. During its early years, Amnesty International focused on letter writing campaigns and publicity designed to focus the attention of the media and influential individuals and institutions on political prisoners. The organization was credited with leading to better treatment and, in some cases, the release of some prisoners, and Amnesty International was careful to maintain a stance that kept it separate from government affiliation. From its earliest days, the organization believed that information and the dissemination of information was critical to its success. Letter writers were encouraged to be factual, not emotional, in their letters, and the increased publicityùitself a form of informationùwas believed to lead to better situations for the prisoners that Amnesty International sought to serve (“Globalise This” 38).

In 2001, the organization shifted its focus from prisoner rights to human righ…

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