In the race to be the first to break news stories, television channels often neglect ethical considerations such as the implications of revealing the identity of a woman victim of violence, said the participants at a seminar on ‘The role of media in eliminating torture of women’ on Friday.
“The breaking news syndrome in the media has resulted in a compromise of media ethics which has often led to the victim’s identity being exposed,” said Dr Anjum Zia, the head of the Mass Communication Department at the Lahore College for Women University, at the seminar organised by the Strengthening Participatory Organisation in collaboration with Oxfam.
Dr Zia said the privacy of the accused must be taken into account while reporting to protect survivors of torture or abuse from social discrimination. She said violence against women existed in all cultures across the globe. “Age, culture, religion and social class do not limit the probability of discrimination against women in any society,” she said.
She identified illiteracy and patriarchy as social factors promoting violence against women in Pakistan. She said that discriminatory attitudes towards women persisted in the presence of legislation protecting their rights because of a lack of social acceptance and awareness.
Shams Jalil from the SPO said that the group had organised “16 days of activism against gender violence” from November 25 to December 10. He said that the SPO was drawing up a three-year project for the rehabilitation of torture survivors and to raise awareness about gender-based violence.
“Women torture survivors suffer great mental and physical affliction for which a facilitative environment should be provided,” he said, adding that sensitising law enforcement personnel to gender issues would be part of the project.
SPO regional director Salman Abid said the code of ethics for reporting must not be compromised. He said the social implications of exposing the victim’s identity should always be taken into account when reporting cases of rape and abuse.
“There is a need to rephrase the code of ethics for reporting in light of the recent technological advancements in media,” said Dr Mugheesuddin Sheikh, who is dean of the Mass Communications Department at Superior University.
He said the media facilitated change, but was not the sole agent of change. He urged media organisations to organise training workshops for young journalists to ensure responsible reporting.
Zakia Shahnawaz, an advisor to the chief minister, said that ethical reporting was essential. She said there was much criticism directed at the media for sensationalist reporting, but it also deserved praise.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2011.