Guideline for sensitive reporting on women and children

Media: The Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) has developed a media guideline on reporting for children and women to enable media houses and journalists to portray women and children issues in a more balanced manner.

The guideline was developed with support from the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and UNDP. The task force members comprising representatives from the print and broadcast media, NCWC and BMF endorsed the guideline on December 11 in Paro.

BMF’s executive director Dawa Penjor said the guideline would be released at the end of this month.

Dawa Penjor said the Journalists Association of Bhutan and Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority’s code of ethics for journalists mention about reporting on children and women issues but was not extensive.

“The guideline is more comprehensive,” he said.

The guideline, he said, was necessary, as the Bhutanese media have reached a stage where they cover critical issues, which also concerns women and children. “In doing so, the guideline will ensure that the media don’t sensationalize their stories,” he said.

The 11-page guideline has separate provisions on how to report on children and women, which according to BMF, is based on international best practices.

When reporting on children, the guideline states that the media should pay special attention to avoid any direct or indirect identification of children under 18 in line with the existing laws.

The guideline also mandates the media to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian responsible for the child under 18 to interview or photograph him or her. The media should also ensure that information about a child is not presented in an insulting or degrading manner.

The guideline, among others states that the media should use its own leverage and influence to raise awareness of children’s social or health issues and encourage relevant government agencies to address the deficiencies.

“The media should aim to be proactive and put children’s issues on the agenda, and not limit itself to only covering current news and circulating facts,” the guideline states.

On reporting on women, the guideline has been categorized under women as a source, subject and victim or survivor of information.

The guideline states that journalists seek opinions of both female and male leaders on topics that impact women more severely given that male leaders also hold the responsibility of deciding and legislating on these issues. The guideline also emphasizes the need to speak to different women for varied perspectives on the issues.

“There is an evident journalistic bias towards men as providers of expert opinion, but in the case of issues of greater concern to women, female interviewees can provide valuable knowledge and information,” it states.

The guideline also mandates journalists to respect privacy, the accurate language and safety concerns when reporting on women. For instance, the guideline states that rape is never sex nor a volatile relationship but a crime with judicial consequences.

The guideline also cautions journalists on naming women stating that the survivor’s right to security and privacy is non-negotiable and unquestionable. “Journalist should avoid using real names, personal information and/or images that could lead to identification,” it states.

The guideline further states that while it may seem natural to incorporate lurid details of the investigations of issues such as sex trafficking of women into an article, rather than helping readers, such information could rebound on the survivors, generating greater victimization and stigma. The guideline also suggests news coverage on successes like successful prosecution of abusers or women who were successful in recovering and rebuilding lives, among others.

Kinga Dema

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