Pakistani Media Criticized for Coverage of Alleged Rape, TV News Interviewed Victim in Hospital Bed

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ARY News interviewed Uzma Ayub, who said she was gang raped and impregnated, with her newborn baby in her hospital bed. (Credit: YouTube, "ARYNewsonWeb," screenshot)

Pakistani media violated journalism ethics in its reporting on rape, Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported.

Most recently, the media sensationalized news reports on a teenager named Uzma Ayub, who says she was kidnapped for 13 months, gang-raped by “13 men, including police officers and an army soldier,” and impregnated, the Express Tribune reported.  According to the Express Tribune, the media has “hounded” Ayub.

The Express Tribune reported that “hours after” Ayub gave birth, ARY News reporter Shazia Nasir “managed to get inside the hospital room” and interview Ayub on camera in her bed “live on national television.”  See here a ARY News video interview with Ayub in her bed.

Nasir told the Express Tribune that she even found the interview to be unethical.  She is quoted as saying:

“It is completely unethical to ask such questions, but there is too much pressure on reporters to get the story. If I would not have done it, Express News or GEO would have.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s chairperson Zohra Yusuf criticized the media reporting on Ayub, noting that Ayub “has been blamed since the reporting,” according to the Express Tribune.  The commission is an “independent, voluntary, non-political, non-profit making, non-governmental organisation,” according to its website.

Fouzia Saeed, a social scientist who has “been working on violence against women for the last 25 years,” according to her website, wondered why there is an apparent double standard where victims are identified but not the accused, according to the Express-Tribune, which quoted her as saying: “If the media names rape victims and shows their pictures, they should do the same for the accused.”

We wrote to White Ribbon Campaign Pakistan, a group that advocates for “ending violence against women” to ask about media reporting on Ayub.  White Ribbon Campaign Pakistan’s Omer Aftab sent iMediaEthics two of the group’s case studies of “media monitoring” including reports on Ayub.

According to the group’s review of coverage from Nov. 24-Dec. 23 of national TV channels and print publications in Karachi, Lahore, Rwp/Isb [Rawalpindi/Islamabad] and Peshawar, “only two channels from our (selected universe) Geo News & Express News give the space & follow ups of this case.”  White Ribbon Campaign Pakistan found that the print outlets it reviewed provided more follow-up than broadcast.

Aftab explained via e-mail that the “White Ribbon rationale of starting the Nationwide Journalists Engagement Program was that first of all we feel that media needs to do better gender sensitive reporting and secondly we have seen cases where media creates hype of a VAW case and after a while leave it without any further follow-up. Once the media hype goes down, there have been cases of further violence with the same victim and the family.”

We have written to ARY News, Saaed, and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists for more information and will update with any response.

We wrote in January when Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence Against Women held a discussion called “Ethics Protection of Privacy in the Coverage of Sexual Abuse.”  The commission and Indonesia’s press council advised journalists follow Indonesia’s ethics guidelines in reporting on sexual abuse. For example, the guidelines call for victims to be given anonymity and for journalists to use sensitive language in reports and interviews.

We wrote in October critical of local New York media outlets for reports on an August 2011 New York City rape.  iMediaEthics’ commentary found that reports of the rape crossed the line and invaded the privacy of the victim by showing her apartment building where she was allegedly raped, providing details about her background, interviewing her neighbors on camera and naming her superintendent and other building residents.

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Pakistani Media Criticized for Coverage of Alleged Rape, TV News Interviewed Victim in Hospital Bed

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