Journalists Cautioned Against Sensationalism in GBV

By Rose Mahorya

Journalists in the country have been advised to be careful with use of words that infringe on the rights of victims of gender based violence (GBV) and human trafficking.

The call was made Monday in Mzuzu by United States based journalist and GBV expert Teresa Tomassoni during a day- long training  which was  organised by the American Embassy for journalists.

Tomassoni who besides being holder of a Master’s Degree in Journalism, has a Bachelor’s Degree in International Health and Social work, said the words that a journalist uses in his or her article on GBV can make people take positive action or not.

She said use of words like defile/defilement which have literal translation of making unclean, impure, dirty and polluted, have the potential to expose victims to ridicule and discrimination among others.

“The word ‘defile or defilement’ goes with negative connotations. The sufferer will be considered unclean and dirty, a situation that is inhumane.

“Again, carnal knowledge, if you check the true meaning of this word, you realize that it means something different from the actual rape and makes the action become less of a crime,” said Tomassoni.

She added that if journalists are to bring the desired impact on the society, crimes should be reported and called as they are supposed to.

Tomassoni, who has done similar trainings with journalists in other African countries such as Zambia, Tanzania and Nigeria, advised journalists to desist from writing GBV and Human Trafficking stories like sensational news articles.

“When writing a story on GBV or human trafficking, make sure that the information you include does not attract unnecessary attention to the sufferer because at the end of it all, it is the embarrassing moments highlighted in your story that the public will remember most,” she said.

One of the participants, Emmanuel lawyer, who is also Nyika Media Club General Secretary, said the training was an eye opener as the scribes will now be reporting GBV and human trafficking issues with a cautious eye.

“The training is very helpful because it has imparted both knowledge and skills to the journalists in attendance and we are hopeful that after this, our reports will not only focus on breaking the news but also safeguarding the rights of the sufferers,” he said. -MANA