THERE is no denying that we are living in technologically advanced world with powerful electronic and social media. Pakistan is also no exception in this regard. More than 30 private TV channels broadcast the news in Pakistan. They have reporters everywhere; from small towns to metropolitan cities.

It may be a daunting task for the channels to train all their reporters and provide guidelines for reporting on sensitive issues. Recently, a news story from Ratodero related to an alleged sexual assault has been circulating on the social media. It is ironic that the news was published in local newspapers as well and even disclosed the identity of the victim.

A few channels broadcast the news with footage and name of the victim, but blurred the face. The same story was also circulated on social media by some journalists even with the picture of the victim where her face could be seen clearly. It was not even blurred. I requested one of the local journalists to remove the picture of the victim from his post.

Instead of removing the picture, he defended himself, asking if ethics were only meant for him.

It is unfortunate that we are into a race for breaking news and getting likes and comments on social media. We have become an insensitive society that has no empathy. We do not contemplate that this kind of news reporting will not alleviate the pain of the victim, or be helpful to her in getting justice.

Instead, this will definitely traumatise her and exacerbate the problems for her in the future because she will have to face social pressures of all kinds.

There are globally accepted and practised guidelines for reporting a story related to sexual assault. Article 14 of the country’s Constitution also provides the ‘right to privacy’ for the protection of victims’ identities.

Therefore, journalists must consider the right to privacy of the victim when they cover such sensitive issues. Journalists and members of the public must think about the consequences before posting such stuff on social media. The departments concerned at federal and provincial tiers must take steps to train and provide guidelines to journalists on how to cover and investigate stories about sexual abuse.

Sumail Hussain
Larkana

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2023

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