Blog Post: How to report on violence against ethnic minority women responsibly
Chair of Saheliya, Shruti Jain, spoke at our event on how journalists can better work with ethnic minority women’s organisations to tell accurate stories of violence against ethnic minority women.
It’s no secret that Scotland is lacking in ethnic diversity. Though we like to portray Scotland as the progressive, inclusive country that didn’t vote for Brexit, issues of racial inequality and discrimination, and low levels of representation are still prevalent.
We can see this in the news: stories of ethnic minority women are rarely covered, and when they are, there is a lack of awareness and care towards reporting these issues. But this won’t change until journalists make the effort to shift their focus from catchy, editorial articles that sell, to accurately reporting on ethnic minorities.
We at Zero Tolerance recently hosted an event for journalists, investigating the issues around ‘Reporting Violence Against Minority Ethnic Women’. At the event, Shruti Jain spoke about her experience with journalists as Chair of Saheliya.
Saheliya is an organisation that seeks to promote the wellbeing and mental health of minority ethnic women in Scotland. Their vision is to dismantle the pervasive structural inequalities faced by minority ethnic women including refugees and asylum seekers.
What are the problems with the way journalists contact potential sources?
As an organisation that interacts with vulnerable individuals, journalists often contact Shruti to provide the organisation’s perspective, or to put journalists in touch with women who have experienced racial and gendered discrimination and abuse. But there are often challenges with journalists’ methods and expectations.
Working to tight deadlines, journalists expect last-minute answers from these organisations and individuals. This overlooks the challenges and risks that are involved in recounting personal experiences, such as traumatisation, online abuse, and risking relationships within the community. Shruti noted that journalists do not always respect personal boundaries, especially by reaching out to her personally through Twitter, instead of through the organisation. The absence of consideration towards the impact on the women, their local community, and the workload of ethnic minority women’s organisations can create tension with journalists and result in a lack of engagement. This ultimately perpetuates the harmful racial inequality present within the media and, therefore, wider society.
However, Shruti makes clear: these issues do not mean that the media shouldn’t listen to ethnic minority women or make sure their stories are represented.
How can journalists better include ethnic minority women in their reporting?
Journalists need to work at creating connections with organisations within the women’s sector, getting involved with feminist training and creating relationships that can mutually support one another. They can improve this relationship by familiarising themselves on violence against ethnic minority women and best practice of reporting. It is essential that support is put in place for any woman who is willing to share their story - before, during and after the process. And when reaching out for potential sources, it is essential that any survivors and experts are paid for their journalistic involvement — an issue that is growing in popularity. This should not be at a token rate.
As well as this, by training themselves and their team with intersectional approaches to journalism and research, journalists can deconstruct this systemic media-bias from within. Media in the UK need to up their game by employing ethnic minority women in their workforce, making space for marginalised voices to be a part of the mainstream and not an occasional feature.
Overall, Shruti calls for journalists, editors, and any other role within the media to bring compassion to their role. The power media professionals have to influence cultural change is enormous. Use it for good, honest, and supportive approach that can ultimately change society for the better.
We know you’re overworked, under pressure, and very busy. But we also know that what you say matters. With every story on violence against women there is an opportunity to stop it happening again. Visit our advice for journalists to learn more.
How to report on violence against ethnic minority women responsibly:
- Commit to writing more about violence against ethnic minority women and diverse stories — not just on International Women’s Day or during Black History month.
- Publish positive stories of ethnic minority women who survived abuse to avoid stereotyping, misrepresentation, or belittling survivors.
- Use and share our media guidelines on violence against women.
- Think about how you can better support interviewees (aftercare packages).
- Build relationships with women’s organisations that are experts on VAWG and that support ethnic minority women. We have a directory of contacts within the women’s sector.
- Don’t stigmatise any ethnic, cultural, or racial group.
- Include helplines at the end of articles. We have a list of helplines on our website.