Urging the Media to use ethical journalism when reporting incidents of sexual violence
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We have observed that the Media has most often misused its power to influence the way an incident of sexual violence including rape is to be perceived by public through the manner in which they present the story. The media rarely takes the responsibility to use its power constructively despite many trainings and sensitization programmes to encourage them to use the media positively in order to reduce violence against women, girls, men, boys and transgender persons. The spotlight of the past week in Sri Lankan media has been the shameful reporting of the rape case of Vidya in a manner which explicitly glorifies the violence that was meted out against her.
Rape, like most cases of sexual assault and gender-based violence, is not about sex, but sexual objectification, power, control and sexual entitlement. Most reported incidents have highlighted the socially learned masculine norms, power and impunity which excuses the crime and violence as if it was a just a part of a norm for the way perpetrators, which are mainly men, can behave.
Thus, all media institutions, both State and Private, have the responsibility of, for example, refraining from publishing detailed and sensationalized explanations of how a rape took place when reporting on court hearings with explicit pictures of the victim and her/his name. The Media rarely considers how these reports affect the survivor, victim’s family and loved ones. This manner of reporting demolishes the victims and their family’s dignity. This manner of reporting also indirectly sends out messages and normalizes the glorification of the violation of women, men’s and transgender’s sexuality and dignity. At the same time they rarely consider the damage it could cause on the attitude of the general public, specifically on men and boys, when these negative and harmful masculine traits are generalized or justified. Further it deeply affects victims, mainly women and girls of their own perspectives of their bodies and behavior which could lead to self –blame and low self -esteem, especially in the event they experience sexual violence.
We believe that steps need to be taken immediately to stop this harmful, insensitive and unethical reporting of rape or any kind of sexual assault against all genders.
We would therefore like to urge the Government to ensure ethical guidelines developed for journalists in Sri Lanka and Internationally as given below are applied when reporting sexual violence:
· The Code of Professional Practice (Code of Ethics) of The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka adopted by the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka,
· The International Federation of Journalists Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists (please refer this link: http://www.ifj.org/about-ifj/ifj-code-of-principles/ ), and
· IFJ Guidelines for journalists and media professionals reporting cases of abuse against children ( please refer this link: http://www.ifj.org/uploads/media/200-telling_their_stories.pdf ).
We would also like to urge the government to take steps to take action to hold the relevant news Editors accountable when these guidelines are violated by journalists by their media institutions.
Please sign this petition if you believe action should be taken to improve ethical reporting of incidents of sexual violence.
Please also write to the Hon. Prime Minister, Hon. Minister of Finance and Mass Media, Hon. Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Hon. Minister of Justice and Law Reform and the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka to take steps to ensure ethical standards are applied when reporting cases of sexual violence. You can either email, fax or post the letter drafted below or amend it and send to these officials.
(On behalf or readers, activists engaging men for gender justice, young freelance journalist and professionals)
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