Lecture series on gender-based violence concluded, lays basic guidelines for best media reporting in humanitarian contexts

Palestinian journalists recommended establishing a glossary that harmonizes terms, definitions and indicators on issues related to gender-based violence and endorsed publishing periodicals that monitor cases of violence in Palestine. These recommendations were made during the concluding event of a lecture series organized by Birzeit University’s Media Development Center (MDC), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA).

The concluding event was held in Bethlehem, and aims to enhance media reporting on sexual and other forms of gender-based violence, taking into account ethical and safety principles. The lecture series urged the availability of clear editing policies that are more gender sensitive, prioritize survivors’ rights to dignity, privacy, confidentiality and protection.

Media professionals and social protection experts emphasized the importance of taking into consideration the context in which a story is reported; they stressed that reporters must avoid creating stereotypes, causing scandals, or chasing scoops when covering stories of persons who have experienced violence.

Nibal Thawabteh, director of MDC, explained that the lecture series introduced journalists to the best practices that they must carefully consider when covering stories about gender-based violence or reporting on cases of persons who have experienced violence, particularly sexual violence. The series, Thawabteh added, focused on defining key terms related to violence, explored the possibility of developing an awareness program for journalists, and suggested developing a glossary with the essential terms and definitions used in media reporting.

Mutasem Awad, the national project manager at UNDOC, talked about human rights organizations’ efforts to eliminate gender-based violence in Palestine, referring to the joint UN program “HAYA: Eliminating Violence against Women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” He explained that HAYA is a five-year program that aims to abolish harmful practices, change attitudes that contribute to violence against women and girls, and help survivors of violence gain access to necessary services such as security and shelter, medical and psychosocial treatment, and livelihood training.

Nahed Abu Taimeh, the gender coordinator at MDC’s Research and Policy Unit, pointed out that this three-day lecture series is significant for journalists as it familiarizes them with the legal, social, and political context of gender-based violence and covers the effective and ethical use of sources. Thus, it enables reporters to speak openly yet sensitively about the persons who have experienced violence and helps them tell their stories efficiently and impactfully.

The participants reflected on violence against women, biased representation, and stereotypes. They agreed that the coverage of violence in Palestinian media reflects the prevailing culture and values of Palestinian society. They also pointed out that with the right terms and appropriate media coverage, journalists can help break the silence and lift the issue of gender-based violence out of the private, traditional sphere where it tends to remain neglected in too many cases.