UNESCO launches publication on sexual violence and the news media

On 28 July, UNESCO New Delhi and Bournemouth University launched a publication entitled “Sexual Violence and the News Media: Issues, challenges and guidelines for journalists in India”, with the aim to improve media reporting on sexual violence.

The first study of its kind to include data from all six regions of India, and with a comprehensive cross-section of vernacular languages, the report provides comparative insights into the routines of journalists as they report on sexual violence. It documents the challenges they face, and analyses the guidelines and principles they follow when reporting on sexual violence.

The report presents data-based results from a comparative content analysis of 10 newspapers covering six languages, and semi-structured interviews with 257 journalists working across 14 languages and representing print, radio, and online sectors. It further investigates the role of organizational and regional contexts, and the influence of attitudes, identity (gendered or cultural), and the self-perception of journalists on their reportage.

Some key findings of the report are: Nearly 20% of our respondents experienced psychological challenges while reporting on sexual violence; 55% of women journalists said they experienced or witnessed workplace sexual harassment or violence; Journalists typically focused on sexual violence in urban areas (49%), with only 22% incidents being reported from rural areas during our period of analysis.Journalists faced several challenges, which included safety issues and psychological distress.

The publication also calls on journalism associations and news industry leaders to take a lead in establishing a national charter for news reporting of sexual violence. Among the various recommendations, it suggests that news organizations should adopt and integrate reporting guidelines into everyday news work, and agree on an institutional approach for the use of language associated with sexual violence.