The former Prosecutor of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cases at Criminal Court “E” at the Temple of Justice, Cllr. George Sagbeh, has cautioned journalists to be prudent in reporting on rape cases.
The legal prosecutor at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) maintained that journalists should be keenly aware of the power of using (descriptive) language, especially at the beginning of reporting an incident of rape.
Cllr. Sagbeh spoke at a 5-day training of media practitioners organized by UN Women held in Ganta, Nimba County recently.
He said “Sexual violence is an act that someone is subjected to and the language used to describe the situation should show the non-consensual nature of the act. Journalists must write the story as it happens, and leave no room for doubt.”
Cllr. Sagbeh, who served as one of the facilitators, said it is important for journalists to be careful in reporting rape cases because he or she is not a part of the incident and therefore they are not third-parties to the crime.
The former SGBV prosecutor who has prosecuted rape cases for the last five years said journalists are not to report rape cases without using the police charge sheet, which he pointed out, is a document from the legal authority of said case and the story will be authentic.
He said most of the communities are becoming sexually toxic quarters and “It is common for newspapers and radio outlets to use terms like sexual assault or sexual abuse when reporting on SGBV crimes.”
The counselor said a sexual offense story has to be written or broadcast to attract the readers’ attention, using the when, where and how methods of reporting.
He said in writing SGBV stories, journalists must know that sexual violence is a continuation of the behaviors that include but are not limited to rape and sexual assaults among other SGBV activities.
Acts of sexual violence are crimes committed without consent, “sometimes with violence and coercion, sometimes against the most vulnerable among us,” he said.
Cllr. Sagbeh called on members of the Liberia Media to stop writing ‘parochial stories’ that do not portray the actual story or the incident reported about because by doing that, the journalistic profession will be undermined and the credibility of the writer will be questioned by the public.
The former SGBV prosecutor said the details of writing rape stories must usually be against the perpetrators, “But it is also important to avoid naming the victim.”