16 June 2016

Southern Africa: Media Essential in Combatting Human Trafficking

Gaborone — "... not her real name... "

This is a common line in most media reports on human trafficking. The idea to withhold the name is one of the strategies used by the media to protect the victims of human trafficking from being known by the public so that their dignity is maintained.

However, what can the media do to prevent human trafficking from ever happening or even spiralling out of control?

This is the main question media practitioners from southern Africa, who are attending a regional workshop on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) that opened on 15 June in Botswana, are trying to answer.

Head of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Unit, Dr. Joseph Pitso said TIP is a complex, broad and crosscutting issue that requires the support and involvement of all stakeholders in order to successfully combat it.

In this regard, the media has an important role to play, not only in educating the public about trafficking but also mobilizing mass support towards preventing it from happening.

"The media is undoubtedly one of the key partners in combating trafficking in persons, as you are the mouthpiece and the eye in our communities," he said.

"It is, therefore, important that the media is able to clearly define trafficking in persons versus smuggling of migrants, and report factual information, always cognisant of basic human rights and victim sensitivity."

According to a United Nations Protocol (2000) popularly known as the Palermo Protocol, TIP refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threats or use of force for purposes of exploitation.

A distinction is made between TIP and smuggling, although there are linkages between the two.

Human smuggling refers to the illegal movement of an individual into a country in which she/he is not a national or a permanent resident. The smuggled individual is assisted for a fee by criminal syndicates to cross into another country.

Smuggling ends with the arrival of the migrants in the country of destination whereas trafficking involves the ongoing exploitation of the victims to generate illicit profit for the traffickers. Smuggling is always cross-border whereas trafficking need not be.

Dr Pitso urged the media to keep abreast with issues of TIP so that there are able to clearly articulating the issues to the public.

TIP has affected a number of people in SADC, with victims, mostly women and children, subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or even the removal of body organs.

The modus operandi used by syndicates includes false newspaper advertisements for jobs in major towns or other countries.

In other cases, young children are kidnapped and sold to work in factories or shops; young men are forced to work in labour markets such as agriculture and textile industries for little or no pay; and babies or very young children are stolen or bought for illegal adoption.

"Therefore, as media practitioners, the importance of understanding the crime of trafficking in persons, in addition to understanding respective national laws as well as national responses, cannot be overemphasised," he said.

Deputy Secretary for Safety and Security in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security in Botswana, Ikwatlaeng Bagopi concurred, saying efforts to combat TIP could remain elusive if people are not aware of the various forms of TIP and various measures to prevent it.

"The role of the media in communicating trafficking in persons cannot be overemphasised. The media is a key resource in preventing and combating trafficking in persons, hence it was very important to organise capacitate the media in reporting on trafficking in persons," he said.

Bagopi called on SADC countries to implement all agreed national, regional and international commitment towards combating TIP in the region.

A total of 13 of the 15 SADC member states have specific legislation that addresses the issue of human trafficking. These are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Seychelles, Swaziland, the United Republic Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The remaining two - the Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia - are in the process of enacting specific legislations, even though there have various pieces of legislations to prosecute cases of TIP.

At the regional level, SADC has crafted a 10-year strategic plan of action on combating TIP, especially women and children. The regional strategic plan runs from 2009 to 2019.

Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Botswana and SADC, Ambassador Alexander Baum said it was also important for SADC to cooperate with other regional blocs to combat TIP since the crime is a global issues.

"Trafficking is a cross-border issue that needs a regional and global response," he said, adding that regional cooperation is critical in fighting the TIP since all countries are either sources, transit routes or destinations for victims.

"There is also need for SADC to collaborate with the EU to address this modern-day slavery."

SADC Programme Officer responsible for research, information and documentation under the programme that deals with TIP issues, Mukundi Mutasa capped it all when he said "our appeal to media is to raise awareness on trafficking so that we prevent human trafficking from ever happening or even spiralling out of control."

The SADC Regional Training of Trainers for Media Practitioners on TIP workshop, running from 15-17 June, is organized by SADC to capacitate the media on reporting TIP.

 - sardc.net

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