When the news sensationalizes crime | Special report

VSThe glut of criminal stories related to gender-based violence has long been watched by independent observers, watchdogs and organizations working on gender issues. There is an ongoing struggle to make journalists understand the sensitivity required in covering sexist incidents. Things have improved slightly, so there is still a long way to go. Why Pakistani media, especially television, are not up to the task vis à vis awareness of gender-based violence? Is it because of a lack of education and training or an ingrained patriarchal approach? Yes. A patriarchal mindset prevails in society, and the media is no exception.

Creating hype or sensationalizing crimes against women, trivializing gender issues and making harassment issues ‘spiky’ for TV and social media has been the hallmark of local media to get higher ratings and more. views and tastes. Although efforts have been made to sensitize journalists to reporting and coverage of gender-based violence through workshops and seminars, the media are still a long way from strategizing to move from politics to more social issues. urgent matters, including violence against women.

The launch of Geo News in 2002, brought about a big change in Pakistan’s media industry, followed by a meteoric growth of independent news channels in the following years. The electronic media have given voice to the oppressed, including women. Unlike newspapers, women have had more opportunities in electronic media as presenters, reporters, editorial staff and technical staff. Yet over 90 percent of electronic media workers are men. This is in part the reason why gender issues are publicized, sensationalized or trivialized in the audiovisual media.

There are hardly any women in key editorial positions in newsrooms. On nearly 30 news television channels in the country, there is only one woman currently office manager (Farzana Ali was office manager at Aaj TV for several years.) All decisions about media coverage are therefore taken by predominantly male editorial offices and offices. In most cases, women journalists are not confronted with politics, crime, sport or the economy. Their tasks are mainly limited to mid-level positions and communication of social events. There is no training mechanism for press staff, men and women, on the coverage of gender-based violence.

Several large news channels currently operate without news directors / editors. Important editorial decisions are therefore taken by mid-level staff who lack adequate training and awareness of the sensitivity of these issues.

According to a report prepared by the Organization for Sustainable Social Development (SSDO), up to 6,754 women were kidnapped and 1,890 raped in the first six months of this year. 3,721 cases of violence against women have been recorded in the Punjab. The media have not had the opportunity to report all of these cases. The report indicates that 752 cases of child abuse have been recorded in the Punjab. He said 34 cases of rape were recorded in Islamabad, but only 27 were reported by the media.

When the news sensationalizes crime

So what are the priorities of news channels and digital media platforms? Although people are now more aware than before, ratings – the race to be the first to break history – and pressure tactics have led to a marked drop in coverage of social issues. Politicians get the most media attention. Political leaders belonging to opposition parties and ministers / advisers to the prime minister and prime ministers occupy the television screens while social issues find little space and time. Problems such as the ‘fake’ meeting with Sahiwal and gang rape on the highway remained in the headlines for a few days until a new political development managed to gain media attention, after which these problems. have been put on hold.

A patriarchal mindset prevails in the majority of newsrooms where policymakers attempt to either trivialize gender-based violence or a victim-blame mentality leads to downplaying cases of violence against women. People with this mindset and the lot of novice journalists hardly know the words and phrases to use or avoid in such cases.

Audiovisual media have become a tool of political propaganda. Almost no news channel follows social issues. Journalists do not have time to investigate crimes against women or children. They are mainly engaged in covering politicians and government. The news channels mainly serve certain neighborhoods, which want to use them for political ends. Judicial activism and political pressure do not allow news channels to have daily plans to carry out. Special reports on social issues fall flat when channels are forced to cut live for press conferences.

The only way forward is to ensure adequate representation of women in the media and to provide extensive on-the-job training opportunities for press staff, especially women, in order to equip them with professional skills that enable them. to access decision-making positions in newsrooms. A powerful independent watchdog is the need of the hour to force the media to provide a harassment-free and friendly environment in the workplace, where gender balance is guaranteed by owners by providing women with the means to transport and other facilities. It can help women excel in their respective fields in the media and help them move into decision-making positions in newsrooms.


The writer is a Senior broadcast journalist, and worked with several news channels in Pakistan

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