Monday, December 7, 2009

2009 Campaign PR (26/11): Accounting for accuracy - reporting on gender violence

Chennai, November 26: How does one report a case of gender violence without sounding sensational, callous or careless? Why do certain crimes get reported over some others? These were just few of the questions discussed at the ‘Reporters’ Roundtable: Gender Violence and the Media’ organised by Prajnya, a non-profit think-tank, in Chennai on Thursday.
The roundtable, held as part of Prajnya’s 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence, had mediapersons debating norms in reporting cases of gender violence. The session was mediated by Ammu Joseph, a Bangalore-based independent journalist.
Ms. Joseph writes on issues relating to gender, human development and the media. She is a recipient of the UNFPA-LAADLI Media Award for Gender Sensitivity 2007 and a founder-member of the Network of Women in Media, India.

In her short talk prior to the discussion, Ms. Joseph pointed out numerous drawbacks in existing media coverage of gender violence such as lack of accuracy, consistency, insensitivity and speculation. The media, she said, tended to veer between routinising violence against women to sensationalising reports.
The participants discussed the lack of a clear definition of gender violence, both globally and in Indian laws on domestic violence. The roundtable also drew attention to the pressures of competition among media houses in getting to the story ‘first’ and the packaging of news as entertainment. This often led to inaccuracies, ‘single-source’ reports on gender violence and journalists flouting rules on sensitive reporting.

The participants felt that the focus needed to shift from the victim of a crime to the perpetrator. They also mutually agreed that to have a greater impact, follow-ups and trend stories linking the crime to the bigger picture of gender violence were crucial.
The session yielded practical suggestions for reporting on stories of gender violence.

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