6 November 2017

Liberia: Journalists Cautioned On Reporting Rape Cases

The former Prosecutor of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) case at Criminal Court "E" at the Temple of Justice, Cllr. George Sagbeh, has cautioned Liberian journalists in reporting rape cases.

The legal prosecutor at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) maintained that journalists should be keenly aware of the power of using language, adding that sexual violence is an act that someone is subjected to and language used to describe the situation should show the nonconsensual nature of the act. "Write your story as it happens, and leave no room for doubt," he noted.

Serving as one of the facilitators during a one week training for journalists in Ganta City, Nimba County, the Counselor at law said the importance of a journalists to be careful in reporting rape cases is because he or she is not a part of the incident; and as such, no journalists is third-party of any crimes.

The former SGBV prosecutor who had prosecuted rape cases for the last five years averred that journalists are not to report rape cases without using the police charge sheet, which he pointed out, is a document from the legal authority of said case and the story will be authentic.

He stressed that even though most of the communities are becoming sexually toxic quarters, "it is common for newspapers and radio to use terms like sexual assault or sexual abuse and hard sex when reporting on sex crimes."

The Counselor warned the media that sexual offence story has to be comparing that it will attract the readers' attention, using the when, where and how methods of reporting.

He said in writing SGBV story, journalists must know that sexual violence is a continuation of the behaviors that include but not limited to rape and sexual assaults among other SGBV activities.

He further said acts of sexual violence are crimes committed without consent, "sometimes with violence and coercion, sometimes against the most vulnerable among us." He said.

He called on members of the Liberia Media to stop writing a parochial story that will not portray the actual story or the incident reported about, adding that by doing that, the journalistic profession will be undermined and the credibility of the writer will be questioned by the public.

The former SGBV prosecutor said the details of writing rape stories must usually be against the perpetrators, "but it is also important to avoid naming the victim."

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