Created by Sonke Gender Justice in collaboration with Health-E News, this guide is designed to provide journalists and editors in South Africa with guidance on how to report on issues of gender-based violence (GBV) in a sensitive, respectful, and ethical matter. As stated in the guide, “[R]ates of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa are staggeringly high, with a recent study in 2016 by StatsSA indicating that one in five partnered women have experienced physical violence in the 12 months prior to the survey. Still, GBV remains largely hidden and consigned to the private sphere, thus diminishing the public discussions about violence. The media has an important role to play in shining a light on what has until now remained silent and to change this perception and to reshape the conversations to galvanize action for change.” In addition, when GBV is reported on insensitively and inaccurately, publications tend to sensationalise incidents of GBV and fuel further victimisation of survivors.
In developing this guide, it is understood that journalists and editors work under immense pressure, and that at times it may feel that ethics should take a backseat when reporting on a big story. Yet the publishers ask that journalists and their editors hold this guide in mind and ensure that they report in a way that is in the best interests of the survivors whose stories are being told.
The guide contains the following:
- Useful definitions
- An understanding of GBV within the broader South African context
- Rape culture and commonly held beliefs and myths
- What language to use and avoid
- A checklist of do’s and don’ts when writing up an article
- Tips for interviewing survivors of GBV
- Sample informed consent form for interviewing survivors
- List of referrals for journalists to have on hand during interviews
- List of expert organisations to reach out to for comment
- The Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media
- How to lodge complaints with the Press Council and the Broadcasting Commission
The guide is informed by an intersectional approach to GBV, recognising that various experiences of race, class, sexuality, gender identity and expression, citizenship status, criminalisation, and other forms of oppression contribute towards the varied experiences of GBV survivors.
Sonke Gender Justice website, December 1 2017.