Media Guidelines for Reporting on Women and Children Endorsed
Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) in collaboration with National Commission for women and Children endorsed first ever media guideline for reporting on women and children last Thursday. The guideline is for journalists to consider few ethics while reporting on women and children.
Despite having adequate legal protection, women and children are subject to inhuman cruelties and they have to endure worst form of abuse. Violations are often newsworthy, reads the guideline rationale.
Issues related to women and children are complex in nature. Therefore, it is looked at as important that the media and journalists portray their cases in a manner that will advocate for interventions and increase awareness and understanding by causing minimal negative impact on the parties concerned.
Media coverage on matters relating to women and children are known to have longterm consequences on their overall development (physical, mental, psychological, emotional, moral, social, economic etc), life and dignity. Therefore, insensitive reporting on them will entail real risk of women and children facing harm, stigma, disqualification, and retribution.
The privacy, dignity, physical and emotional development of women and children are crucial and they need to be preserved and protected while reporting and publishing or broadcasting of news and programmes. However, the guideline states that a numerous cases reveal a failure to portray gender issues fairly and accurately, and few initiatives have been taken to develop ethical standards and avoid unfair and out-dated stereotypes.
The guideline according to BMF has been developed to mitigate sensationalism and stereotyping in reporting, and to help journalists deal with issues related to women and children with sensitivity, accuracy and fairness. Fair gender portrayal is an issue that merits priority if the media hopes to fully reflect the role women plays in society. It is believed that the guideline will supplement the state’s role and responsibility and strengthen the existing codes of ethics.
The guideline according to BMF Executive Director Dawa Penjor is developed with an objective of setting minimum parameters of responsibility for all forms of media in relation to reporting, broadcasting, publication of news, programmes, documentaries etc. on and for women and children.
It provides practical guidance for ethical reporting when confronted with ethical dilemmas of a complex and diverse nature. It is also believed to strengthen the role of media as an important tool to enhance awareness on issues related to the rights of women and children by causing minimal harm to the parties concerned. It is expected to help increase the number of positive articles and stories in the media on women and children.
The guidelines state that media practitioners shall, at all times, strive to be impartial and avoid publicly associating themselves with partisan statements or organisations. With these guidelines media houses shall increase programmes on gender specific topics and allow more women and children to be involved in the production of such programmes.
Media practitioners shall recognise that women and children are not a homogenous group and there should be inclusive coverage of all women that goes beyond differences of class, social standing or place of residence, states the guideline.
It is also stated that the media should report all issues as fully as possible, but taking care to balance harm and discom- fort with alternative that maximise the goal of truth telling. Therefore, media houses shall refrain from publishing the identity or details of rape or sexual violence victims that could lead to their identification, promoting pornography and violence against women and children and glamorising violence against women and negative gender portrayal in advertising.
Media houses shall prohibit use of sexist language in reporting and when editing and selecting facts, details and graphics, media shall not over simply and report women and children issues out of context.
Usha Drukpa , a journalist from The Journalist said, this guideline would really prove useful when reporting on women and children. She added that she would also share this guideline with her journalist friends who are unaware.
The guideline is developed by BMF in collaboration with National commission for women and children.