Amidst a growing international interest in the portrayal of violence and its impact on the understanding, behaviours and attitudes of communities, much attention has been centred on how stories of violence are framed in news print, broadcast and social media. Violence is often perpetrated against the most vulnerable groups in society. Reporting and covering acts of violence needs specific and discerning preparation, good knowledge and sensitivity.
Aside from considering the impact of reporting acts of violence on those people involved, journalists need to be mindful of their own security and safety and unite with fellow journalists who may also be subjected to violence as a result of their journalism.
Hence, these guidelines have been developed by the group of ASEAN journalists to encourage accurate, responsible and sensitive coverage of different forms of societal violence.
We understand ‘violence’ as behaviour involving psychological and physical harm inflicted on individuals, or groups, on the basis of their political affiliation, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, social class, financial status, and state of origin. These guidelines cover the reporting of violence in relation, but not limited to, the following areas: political violence; violence committed by state agencies, including the police and the military; violence against journalists; violence committed against environmental activists; racial or ethnic violence; gender-based violence; domestic violence; violence against children and or elderly persons; violence against people with disability; and violence-based on sexual orientation.
Journalists are encouraged to:
- Consider expressing solidarity with fellow journalists who are subject to violence as a consequence of their journalism.
- Acknowledge the impact of live coverage of acts of violence, as this may trigger further acts of violence.
- Abstain from reporting personal opinion, unverified information and claims, when reporting violence.
- Be careful and accurate when using terminologies and graphic images related to violence.
- Secure your own safety; no story is worth your life.
- Exercise impartial reporting by not providing, either witting or unwitting, support for those perpetrating violence.
- Veer away from focusing on the specific tragic aspects of an incident.
- Understand that violence and abuse might be part of a long-standing social problem, that might cause further trauma.
- Be impartial and try to get all sides of the story when reporting on political violence.
- Respect the privacy of victims by asking consent to interview and provide detailed information on the topics that will be covered in any interviews with them.
- Understand and respect the complexity of issues related to race, ethnicity, religion, and culture, as well as state of origin.
- Be mindful and show empathy when interviewing vulnerable people including women, children, and people with disability that have been subjected to violence.
- Consider protecting the identity and other personal information of victims and immediate family members when reporting violence against children and vulnerable people.
- Be mindful of protecting the identity and other information that might lead to the suspects, and their immediate family members, when reporting incidents of children who are in conflict with the law.
- Acknowledge the rights of people with different sexual orientation to privacy and dignity.
- Adhere to impartial and accurate reporting when covering violence committed by government agencies, including police and the military.
- Aim to consult all stakeholders, including people that are affected, when reporting environmental issues.
- Protect the privacy and identity of the victims when reporting violence triggered by illegal money lending.
Watch the EJN’s Aidan White explain how to use the test in this video.
Read the Action Plan on the Public Media Alliance website