23rd January 2020

Ethically Reporting Cases of Sexual Violence

The Indonesian public was recently horrified by the cases of sexual assault commited by Reynhard Sinaga in the UK. Throughout the shock, a question seems to keep popping up - if the cases happened in 2017, why is it appearing in the news now, in 2020?

In Indonesia, cases of sexual violence are too often reported quickly, without regard for the privacy of the victims of the crime. Media outlets uses clickbait titles to increase sensation, releasing the identity of the victim and their family, their residence, and their workplace. Even the identity of underaged citizens involved in the crime are publicly disclosed. In this pursuit of sensation, reports would immediately be made focusing on inappropriate, obscene, and sometimes sadistic information (Analysis of Media Coverage Reports on Victims of Sexual Violence, National Commission on Violence Against Women, 2015). Many times, these reports are falsified or contain harmful opinions with no clear basis, going so far as to blame the victim for the crime committed against them.

Reporting on cases of sexual violence for a media outlet needs to be a process that prioritizes the safety of the victim. Journalists must pay attention to the code of ethics of the Press Council Journalism, which reads that "Indonesian journalists must not mention and broadcast the identity of victims of immoral crimes and do not mention the identity of children who are perpetrators of crimes" (Article 5).

Why do victims of sexual violence need to be protected? To ensure that the victims do not experience repeated violence and victimization. Many victims who have been identified have received threats from perpetrators, not to mention social stigma and community discrimination. In fact, it’s not rare for victims of sexual assault to be expelled from their village, homes, schools, jobs, and even their families. We can learn something important from media and court behaviour in England.

The British court held a closed trial to respect the privacy of victims and requested that the media not report on the court process until the verdict was decided. We need to learn from the way the case was handled by the UK media, while focusing on aspects of handling, prevention and recovery of the victims, not just the heinous acts committed by the perpetrator. The media has a powerful voice to empower victims, and must respect their rights as stipulated in the PKS Bill. We would go so far as to say that the media has a responsibility to protect the rights of the victim. In the coming year, we hope Indonesia will continue to learn to respect the rights of victims of sexual violence and provide support for victims' recovery. We hope we can work together to break the cycle of sexual violence.

Linayanti

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