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Media ethics on women issues discussed

KARACHI – Sensational and unethical approach of a section of print and electronic media towards reporting of rape cases reduces chances of getting justice for these victims.

The media should go by universal ethics and avoid publishing or transmitting the names or photos of rape victims to protect them against different possible pressures, which hamper legal aid and cause humiliation to the victims, Amna Mehvish, coordinator of an NGO, War Against Rape, said this while speaking at a two day workshop on September 27.

The event, titled “Need for effectively addressing the issue of violence against women in Pakistan,” has been arranged by the Pakistan Press Foundation, and is attended by representatives of various NGOs, besides journalists from seven districts of Sindh and rural areas of Karachi.

On the occasion, senior journalists delivered lectures on news reporting and article writing, besides giving briefings to leading women rights activists. The workshop is a part of ‘Media and violence against women project’ aimed at capacity building of civil society organizations to work effectively along with the media to raise awareness among journalists regarding the issue.

Ms Mehvish said the media should gather facts and figures of a rape incident through counter checks before filing reports or follow-ups. In most cases, rape victims were unnecessarily publicized, exposing them to further embarrassment and making it difficult for them to fight legal battle, that benefited the culprits, she added.

A reporter should see the medical report and visit the place of incident to know the background, instead of only visiting police stations to read FIRs or relying on statements recorded by police, which, in most cases, were found to be ignoring vital facts, she said.

She maintained that the Supreme Court also had issued its ruling that name or photo of rape victim should not be made public. She also called upon the media to use civilized and balanced language and disseminate only that information which was likely to help facilitate litigation in the right direction.

She said that her organization, working for women rights, depended largely on press reports to initiate legal war for rape victims, and that was why accurate and responsible media reports were necessary for achieving its objectives.

Referring to the rape cases handled by her NGO, she pointed out that these cases had nothing to do with religion, nor they were specific to urban or rural areas, and added that the accused included married as well as unmarried men, with different educational backgrounds.

Domestic and agricultural women workers, or those working in other private establishments, were the main victims, while the major factor in these incidents was that most of the culprits were powerful and influential, she said.

She said more than 1,100 cases of rape/sodomy were reported last year only in Karachi, in which 40 per cent victims were children. According to the Amnesty International’s report, only 5 per cent rape cases were reported, while in Karachi the number goes to 10 per cent, she said.

She said children should be made aware of possible harassment tactics and be given confidence to share with their families any such incident, adding this would help save them from any serious threat.

She was also critical of the Hudood Ordinance and maintained that it protected rape accused. Speaking on the occasion, chairperson, National Commission on Status of Women, Justice Majida Rizvi, said that some men dealt women as commodity with no respect for them.

She underlined the need for promotion of literacy and religious education to ensure due respect and care for women in the society. She emphasised that a fully representative and effective bill be immediately passed on Karo-Kari, and it should also be strictly implemented.

PWLA President Rashida Mohammad Hussain Patel called for making law-enforcement agencies more effective. She also called for promoting family planning to ensure better education and training to children which would help reformed the society.

Source: Dawn

Date:9/29/2004

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