Questions on reporting violence ( violence against women) -Express Tribune

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In Pakistani journalism, violence against women isn’t taken seriously unless a circus is made out of it on our television screens. As things stand, social media seems to be the newest tool to humiliate women as there are no boundaries for indecent, vulgar and obscene content that keeps popping up in the form of tweets, memes and other forms.

Is the media looking inwards to see what it is doing wrong? In a briefing organised by the Uks Research Centre in Karachi at the press club recently, Tasneem Ahmar, the Centre’s director, commented that the current media scenario is just an extension of the insensitivity that most of the media in the country has displayed against women — be it print, electronic or social media.

She commented that the slander and the abuse has been happening for almost two decades on most talk shows that are aired on TV news channels as well as on dramas on TV entertainment channels. There is an alarming level of anti-women bias, sexism, chauvinism and patriarchy, bordering on misogyny.

Misogyny and misandry are two sides of the same coin, which are often rooted in culture, society and values. Some of the content in the media that we monitor also focuses on the fact that women should not leave the security of their homes. The fact that domestic violence happens within the four walls of one’s home isn’t taken seriously and is in fact denied.

One feels also that the media’s role as watchdog in society has changed. Incidents of violence against women and sensationalism, wrong choice of words and wrong choice of images take place and we hold the ratings system responsible, which is also true. But even in newspapers, reporting of such incidents isn’t up to the mark. Where are we going wrong? Is this a lack of training or a push to report everything sells — regardless of the consequences?

The sudden rise in reporting of cases of violence against women over the past few months has caused much debate in Pakistan. Two months back in a debate in parliament, women MPs commented that those who rape and kill women should be hanged in public. This may be seen as a quick fix solution but has little to do with the overall treatment of women in our society and the various forms of violence perpetrated against them. What role is the media playing in all this?

Let us take one example. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) data, 1,957 incidents of honour killings had been recorded over the past four years. This is higher than what the government reports. The average rate of honour killings in women between 15-64 years was found to be 15 per million women per year. This may be yet another dubious world distinction we have achieved. But this isn’t reported with the sensitivity and seriousness it deserves.

The late Amina Jilani, a renowned columnist, once commented that it is high time that the pernicious mendacious phrase ‘honor killings’ be expunged from the lexicon of what has become known as the ‘Muslim world’ and this particular Islamic Republic could take the lead. There should, in this 21st century, be no murders that are justified by the claim of upholding a non-existent ‘honor’. We should call them by what they are — dishonor killings.

Of course, that is one point in a larger debate. It is time for the media to start a discussion on how to report on violence against women. The connection on how a crime is reported plays an important part in moulding public sentiments and in determining the final outcome of the case if it goes to court. Pakistan is no exception.

Possibly one of the reasons why people do not take crimes against women seriously is because the media does not report these incidents the way they should. This has to change. Media houses, representatives of journalist organisations and other stakeholders from civil society as well as relevant government officials need to sit down and start talking seriously on reporting of violence in the mainstream digital as well as on social media. Some introspection will help. The problem has to be identified before we can discuss on how to address it. This is the least we can do for the women of Pakistan.