Media`s weak spots

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Given the growth of the media in the country in terms of its reach and the manner in which it shapes opinion, it gets to a point where it becomes imperative to take stock of the nature of media coverage in the context of various issues. One layer of the media scrutiny and area of discussion is on whether women journalists bring a different perspective while reporting on issues that are related to various forms of violence against women. While it is true that a journalist’s main duty is to report first and then follow up with additional reports, analysis and opinion pieces regardless of the beat and the issue that is being covered, it goes without saying that the social and cultural norms often come in the way of male journalists being able to get women to talk with them and share their experiences. This is more pronounced when the subject of a story happens to be women who have been subject to sexual violence and even holds true for women who may want to address areas of sexual reproductive health.

Having said this, there are various aspects to media representation of reportage on violence against women since media mindsets are also patriarchal in nature. Along with this of course, media houses operate in ways that are dictated by market forces and sensationalism. The later is true particularly of electronic media where the race is for a greater effort to render ‘breaking news’ that may well end up being more provocative in terms of content and language. The other end of the spectrum in media coverage are the language papers that often falls out of the loop of being scanned by media watch groups and hence escape censure or being engaged upon for their style of coverage. One more increasing truism is the nature of what is an issue of ‘national importance’ given that what happens in Delhi often ends up being discussed, dissected and acted upon. While the nature of laws for protection of women was always an area of importance, it took the brutal case of the Delhi gang rape incident to bring things to a head. No other incidences of other brutal rapes have got the attention or engagement inside and outside of media circles earlier. This attitude may be what is keeping the matter of security excesses that led to violence on women in heavily militarized states including the North eastern states, Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and others being taken up with the seriousness it deserves. The spurt of ‘sensitive’ media coverage of sexual violence against women in any case did not have much commentary on the ways and means by which women in trouble torn areas of the country were being violated sexually and left without any recourse to justice. When the Justice Verma recommendations were placed before the Government, the area on the impunity that armed forces resort to were left out out totally and in essence can only mean that women in the areas where the security forces are given impunity by law, can continue to be violated.

As much as it is imperative that media reports with fairness and in keeping with what is ‘current’, it is critical that there are continuous efforts to study media reportage to be able to take stock of what is going right and what isn’t. While many point out an ‘increasing media sensitive reporting’ by taking the case of the growing spotlight on crimes against women, there are other pointing out rightly so, that current media interpretation is primarily on the brutality that women face and that there is no attempt to look at ways and means of creating media spaces for what leads to such incidences and what can be done about them. In a constantly changing world, it is just as important that the media also grows out of its traditional role of being a mere reporting and informing medium but grows into a space for spreading sensitivity and engaging in looking at solutions. It is only apt that the media output, which is today consumed at every point of our lives also factor in the growing needs of the society it operates in.

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