Gender-based violence under media spotlight

The Press Institute of Mongolia is delivering training to journalists covering gender-based violence.

A new program aimed at the media’s reporting of gender-based violence plans to raise journalistic standards and shine a light on the seriousness of domestic violence in Mongolia.

The Press Institute of Mongolia and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have teamed up to deliver several activities over the next year to encourage journalists and the media to not only cover more gender-based violence stories, but to be conduits for increasing public awareness through sensitive and compelling storytelling.

Domestic violence is considered “one of the most serious, prevalent and persistent human rights violations in Mongolia”, according to the UNFPA.

Figures show that one in five families has a violent relationship, one in five women suffer from physical violence, and one in two children and one in four seniors are victims of violence.

In Mongolia, 88.3 percent of domestic violence is against women and 64.6 percent is against children. As of 2015, a total of 80 people died and 3,299 people were injured in the last five years as a result of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is under-reported, largely due to the fact that the topic remains taboo in Mongolian society, said D.Munkhchimeg, a journalism teacher with the Press Institute of Mongolia.

The UNFPA has stated, “There exists the prevalent, traditional perception that [domestic violence] is a private family matter, something better settled within the confines of the family without external involvement.”

But there are hopes that the newly amended Law on Combating Domestic Violence will be a positive step forward in shining a light on this serious issue.

The newly amended law makes domestic violence a criminal offense for the first time in the country’s history, and marks significant positive action toward protecting victims and holding perpetrators accountable.

The next step for the Press Institute and UNFPA is delivering training to journalists to not only encourage more reporting on domestic violence, but more importantly, to ensure that the media’s reporting is sensitive to victims.

“We’ve seen some bad cases recently, when a leading Mongolian newspaper and website printed a lot of information about a victim and even published a photo of the apartment in which the victim lived,” D.Munkhchimeg said.

“We also see cases where media stories mention what clothes a woman was wearing and question whether or not she had a sexual favor [sic] with someone. When journalists are not trained properly and they write something wrong or insensitive like this, the public could blame the victim.”

Putting an end to this type of victim-blaming, as well as knowing how to sensitively interview victims of domestic violence, including protecting their identity, is part of the training journalists will receive from the UNFPA and Press Institute’s media training program.

The Press Institute says there are currently no Mongolian media protocols or guidelines for responsible and sensitive reporting on women impacted by violence. “It’s something we are working on and these trainings are the first step,” D.Munkchimeg said.

She added, “The purpose is to train journalists and to raise public awareness about gender-based violence. If we expand journalists’ knowledge about the issue, they can start the right dialogue with the community.”

Other goals for the program include organizing a journalism competition for compelling reporting on gender-based violence and forming a media network focused on gender-based violence, the Gender-Based Violence Reporting Group for Journalists. The group held its first meeting on February 13, at the Press Institute, and discussed the Domestic Violence Law and ways in which the media can continue to report on gender-based violence.

In 2015, there were 1,356 cases of domestic violence registered, and the number of domestic violence cases reported to the police increased by an average of 26 percent from the same period in previous years.