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Media and 16 days of campaign against domestic violence

As another episode of the 16 days campaign against women and child abuse comes to an end, critics, women's rights activists and various social organisations now turn their spotlight on the media to see how best they fared in terms of reporting ethically and fairly on the issue.

In its analysis coverage report on the 2006 16 Days Campaign against women and child abuse released recently, South Africa's media watchdog, the Media Monitoring Project (MMP), found that the media most commonly violated the principle to do no harm frequently by identifying the victims and exposing them to potential further abuse and victimisation.

“Half of the stories (50%) that were monitored supported key ethical principles, 18% of the stories monitored violated key ethical principles and 32% neither supported nor challenged any of the ethical principles,” Sandra Roberts, MMP project coordinator, said.

Lack of interest deplored

And once again, the MMP deplores SA media's continuous lack of interest in raising the issues of HIV/Aids in the context of sexual abuse of women and children.

“Given the prevalence of the pandemic in SA, it would seem logical to link women and children abuse and HIV/Aids,” Roberts said.

SA is the country with the largest number of HIV infections in the world, according to the 2007 UNAids annual report. It is believed that women make up the largest number of those who are infected with the disease.

Furthermore, the MMP said that while the media's performance overall was impressive, there are however some areas of coverage that could be improved. One such area is to minimise harm by not publishing the picture of the victim, [especially in the case of rape and domestic violence], if it is not in the victim's best interest, the organisation advised.

“Publishing the picture clearly violates the victim's right to dignity and privacy, therefore causing further trauma and harm,” Roberts lamented.

Media critics

However, critics of the media say that the media is likely to overlook and ignore ethical principles when it comes to reporting on sensitive matters such as rape, corruption implicating high-profiles figures, political scandals and many other sensational stories, in the aim of boosting sales.

“SA media has received much criticism from government about their ethical conduct,” MMP's Roberts said.

“It would seem that by violating key ethical principles in some of the stories, they are supporting the view that media are unable to regulate themselves,” she concluded.

About Issa Sikiti da Silva

Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to as a senior news writer.

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