Opening statement delivered by the Deputy Minister of Communications Hon. Pinky kekana, MP at Gender Based Violence: Media Ethics panel discussion held on 5 October 2018 at Tshedimosetso House
Honourable Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development
Acting Director General Phumla Williams
Ms Latiefa Mobara: Office of the Press Ombudsman
Ms Portia Kobue: Editor at Kaya FM
Lebo Ramafoko: CEO at Soul City Institute
Kubi Gama: Gender-Links
Thank you for joining us today at for a very important conversation.
The topic of discussion is pretty simple on the face of it, what are the ethical consideration for media when reporting on stories and or incidents which relate to Gender Based Violence.
It is certainly not in dispute that Gender Based Violence is a pandemic in our society which needs to be halted by all means possible. We all now that statistics that get rattled off every so often and I suspect that these do not even shock us anymore.
The media have crucial role to play in the struggle against gender based violence because you are the memories of our society. You hold up the mirror so that we can look at ourselves and hopefully if we do not like our reflection, we can change.
Again it is common cause that Gender based violence is reflection that brings a great of shame to us a society. So, given that the fact the media is fourth estate, an institution with immense capacity to frame the narrative about anything and everything.
If you accept my premise, let me restate it, the media is very capable of shaping the narrative about anything and everything, and democratic society such responsibility comes with an element of free expression but also fairness.
Then I would like to pose the following question for discussion and consideration, to what extent does the media coverage curtail or abet gender based violence?
My esteemed colleague the Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development would argue that, when reporting about a matter in which rape is concerned one should not reveal the identity of alleged perpetrator, because this might affect the judicial process;
And I would argue that the media must not reveal the identity of a child because we need to safe guard the interest of the child.
And let pause here to acknowledge the fact that our colleagues in the Print media have reported on the Dros matter sensitively. This is commendable.
This sensitivity must not end here even when you report on stories where a child is not involved, you need to be gender sensitive. Instead of saying Pinky was allegedly raped by Thabo, why not write Thabo allegedly raped Pinky.
One might look at this and think it is trivial or semantics. But it is not, it is a reflection of our judicial system, which places the onus of proof on the survivor.
By the way Deputy Minister when we have our gender summit I’ll be there to propose the reverse onus principle where gender based violence crimes are concerned.
We as women are often cross-examinded well before the matters get into the investigation phase, we are asked frivolous questions or told "But you asked it for it, how could you dress like that?" In our own political organisations the cases are treated slander and political conspiracies. In the work place we, know that patriarchy and misogyny manisfests itself in subtle and consistent ways. Women who call out men who harras them are labelled by captains of industry and major corporations as cultural misfits. Even trusted NGO’s are not immune from this pandemic. Misogny and Partiachy is lodged deeply into the nations DNA.
South Africa is a hypermasculine society, this eminates from our various forms of socialisation. From all quarters, Young men and women are indoctrinated to think that Males are be all and end all of society. This manisfests itself in cultural practices, religious practices and certain social norms. In essence our society is structured in a manner which sustains only the interests of men.
This is further exacerbated by our legal system, which requires one to prove a crime without reasonable doubt. This principle operates on the assumption that the State is omnipresent and omnipotent, where crimes are concerned. Where crimes are concerned the State with its resources is capable of investigating and determined how crimes are engineered and perpetrated.
However, household crimes against women and sexual crimes are of a particular nature. The nature of the crimes, occur in trusted spaces and the perpetrators are often well known to the victims. As such the societal balance of power does not fall within the remit of the victim. Added to this fact, as highlighted above patriarchy and misogyny deprives the females full status in society.
For instance in rape cases women, are required, to prove that the incident did occur. This forces the victim to relive the crime, which by all accounts is a traumatic experience. Added to this, is the major evidential burdens which are required to prove a crime which happens in a very recluse environment. Inevitably, this crimes are difficult to prosecute which lead to a number of acquittals. These acquittals are not necessarily as result of justices manifesting itself but rather it emanates from the engendered societal norms.
A large number of acquittals in rape cases serve to reinforce another unfounded rape myth — that women are vindictive and frequently lie about having given consent. These myths further discourage victims from coming forward.
To change this it is conceivable legal praxis could we develop to protect women?
How do we change the standard we rely on to ensure that justice for women will be pursued? In civil and labour law matters, the "preponderance of probabilities" standard has been used on a consistent basis to decide matters.
In a civil case, the onus is obviously not as heavy as it is in a criminal case, but nevertheless that onus rests on the plaintiff — to satisfy the court "on the preponderance of probabilities" that the plaintiff's version of events is true, making the defendant's version false or mistaken.
With the assistance of the state, women must be able to litigate directly against men, without having to endure the persistent trauma currently evidenced in criminal justice procedures. The moral framework of our society has been reframed by the #MeToo movement; our legal system needs to respond to this urgently.
Moreover, our legal system needs to ingrain a principle of reverse onus when it comes to sexual crimes (including harassment) and domestic violence. It was also Blackstone who said: "Law is the embodiment of the moral sentiment of the people."
Finally as I conclude, I would like us to also ponder on this question to what extent does popular media, aid and abet rape culture in South Africa and what is the stance of the media in this regard. How often do we hear people saying things did you watch the match last night Kaizer Chiefs raped Orlando Pirates, this often infiltrates our music and TV programmes.
Does our mainstream media reflect the Rape Culture entrenched in our society?
So as we discuss ethical media reporting on Gender Based Violence we must also deal with the issued raised herein.