Christian communicators urge media action on gender-based violence

By agency reporter
6 Mar 2009

To commemorate International Women’s Day 2009, the World Association of Christian Communication (WACC) is calling attention to the opportunities presented to news media to reverse the tide of gender-based violence whose incidence, it says, has reached pandemic proportions.

WACC is commending efforts by media practitioners to eliminate reporting that trivializes and normalizes gender violence by developing and following non-discriminatory journalistic guidelines.

The Association is also calling on individuals, groups and organisations across the world to collaborate with us on the next global media monitoring day in November 2009, to collect data on indicators of gender in their local news media.

WACC’s statement and recommendations in full say:

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate achievements in women’s empowerment in all realms - socially, politically, economically and culturally. It is also a day to reflect on women’s struggles and the structural barriers that continue to impede women’s progress in ways that oftentimes erode gains that have been made.

The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2009 is ‘Women and men united to end violence against women and girls’. The Global Media Monitoring Project (http://www.whomakesthenews.org/) coordinated by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) in 2005 found that only 1% of news stories worldwide focus on gender-based violence. Yet, according to UNIFEM, “violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime”.

The Who Makes the News? (http://www.whomakesthenews.org/research/global_reports) report of the 2005 Global Media Monitoring Project observes that “Innumerable events and incidents of gender-based violence occur daily but news values and news priorities apparently decree that these are not ‘newsworthy’. Their scale and magnitude is thus hidden from the public.”

The Global Media Monitoring Project found that even when gender-based violence makes the news, the incidences are reported in a manner that normalizes such behaviour, rendering it inconsequential and thus sanctioning its perpetuation. A UN Expert Group Meeting in Vienna in 2008 concluded “media representations significantly influence societal perceptions of acceptable behaviour and attitudes. Training journalists and other media personnel on women’s human rights and the root causes of violence against women may influence the way in which the issue is reported and thereby influence societal attitudes”.

WACC commends efforts by media practitioners to eliminate reporting that trivializes and normalizes gender violence by developing and following non-discriminatory journalistic guidelines. The Guidelines for Reporting on Violence against Women issued in November 2008 by the International Federation of Journalists (http://www.ifj.org/en/articles/violence-against-women-how-journalists-ca...) are a laudable example.

The next Global Media Monitoring Project in November 2009 will collect data on selected indicators of gender in news media worldwide, to determine what changes have ensued since the media monitoring of 2005. One important aspect will be the changes in reporting on gender violence.

WACC calls on individuals, groups and organisations to collaborate with us on the next global media monitoring day in November. Volunteer monitors are needed in every country. Details on how to get involved are available at http://www.whomakesthenews.org/

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