The Australian Press Council has introduced an advisory guideline family on domestic violence reporting which aims to set a standard for ‘best practice’ approach to reporting on those issues.
The guideline was produced after a six-month consultation process which included round tables in three States, examination of relevant Press Council complaints and similar guidelines by other organisations.
Ahead of taking the guidelines to Council last Friday, Council chair, Professor David Weisbrot, told Mumbrella: “We’ve done an enormous amount of research and community consultation.
“We had three big roundtables around the country, which involved survivors, people working in the domestic violence sector, police and, of course, journalists.
“We’ve now got a much more nuanced feeling for how these things should be handled. Journalists were very careful to want to protect freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to write a confronting article that challenges perceptions, and we certainly don’t want to do anything remotely to interfere with that; we agree that is essential.
“But then we also heard from survivors and people working in the sector on how unintentionally brutal the media can be to victims, or alleged victims.
“We had many survivors who said to us the actual violence was horrific but then it kept getting played out over and over again in the media and essentially they felt they were being told it was their fault, or partly their fault.”
The Press Council has said the guideline is not intended to constrain or discourage news coverage or debate about family violence; it aims to help guide considerations around what information to collect and from whom, and what material should be included in an article.
The guideline outlines a series of practical considerations that a journalist should have in mind when preparing articles about family violence. They include:
- Cultural sensitivities
- Context and content
- Sources of assistance
Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW, said in a statement: “Domestic, family and sexual violence is one of the most urgent challenges that we face as a nation, and media have played a huge role in the shift in public perceptions around the unacceptability of such violence.
“We are delighted to be working with the Australian Press Council and some outstanding journalists to improve the ethics of reporting on this issue.”
Weisbrot is also set to draft standards around reporting around children, LGBTI individuals and issues, race and religion and labelling/disclosure requirements around sponsored or native content. Weisbrot has said the next focus will be reporting around children.
You can read the domestic violence guidelines here.
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