Survivors of gender-based violence are often stigmatized. Talking about and recognizing the issue, rather than shying away from it, is one important step in raising awareness on and preventing further cases of such assaults. By reporting on incidents of these crimes, journalists can also play a crucial role in addressing the problem, but only if such coverage is done in an ethical way.
Police officers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are well aware of the consequences of insensitive media reporting. For this reason, UN Police in Bor recently trained both journalists and South Sudanese police officers, a total of 13 men and 12 women, on how to approach and interact with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.
“The safety and dignity of those who have been subjected to sexual violence must always come first, both when police talk to them and when media interview and write about their cases,” Imoh Assim Ita, a police officer serving with UNMISS, told those in attendance.
Elaborating further, Ms. Ita highlighted the role community members or humanitarian actors giving access to survivors can and should play.
“Stigma can be caused during any step of an interview process if their rights to dignity, privacy and protection are not respected, thus potentially exposing them to further harm and abuse for speaking up. Survivors must be respected and protected at all times.”
Andrew Deulong David, a journalist working for Peace Radio, pointed out that media practitioners in a country like South Sudan, with large numbers of particularly vulnerable people like refugees and internally displaced persons, have an even greater need for training and awareness on ethical guidelines.
“If such principles are not followed, a media focus on gender-based violence, especially when it is of a sexual nature, can easily backfire and have seriously negative impacts on the lives of survivors,” he said.
Achol Jok, a Radio Jonglei reporter, acknowledged that she and her colleagues can contribute to the fight against gender-based violence but suggested that it will be difficult to make progress unless aggressors are held accountable.
“At the end of the day, perpetrators must face the consequences, otherwise they will not be deterred. Impunity has to come to an end,” she said.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).