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IWD 2024: MCG and GPU Caution Media on FGM/C Reporting

Mar 8, 2024
Journalists covering Gambia's 2021 presidential election (Photo Credit: Modou S. Joof)
Journalists covering Gambia’s 2021 presidential election (Photo Credit: Modou S. Joof)

Fajara, March 8, 2024: The Media Council of The Gambia and the Gambia Press Union in observance of International Women’s Day are hereby reminding individual journalists and media houses of their obligation to society and to be responsible in their coverage and reporting on Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C).

With attempts to decriminalise the ban on FGM/C via a National Assembly process that seeks to amend sections of the Women’s (Amendment) Act, 2015 already initiated, we are faced with a decisive moment in our nation’s history to deliver good to our women and children and to secure their future, growth and progress.

This means that the media must take its rightful place and a position to uphold its social and public interest responsibilities and respect for the rule of law in order to protect our women and children from this harmful traditional practice.

The 2015 law places a ban on the practice of FGM/C in The Gambia. Sections 32A and 32B criminalized the practice with punishments of imprisonment and fines for performing, procuring, and aiding and abetting the practice of FGM/C.

However, the introduction of the Women’s (Amendment) Bill, 2024 in the National Assembly has reignited traditionalist views on the subject of FGM/C which ignores the scientifically-proven health implications associated with it and the rights of women and children as guaranteed under Gambian and international laws.

As per the Cherno Jallow Charter of Ethics for Journalists, the industrywide code of conduct, the media has a primary social responsibility to protect the best interest of the public by avoiding the publication of any news and information that is likely to affect public health.

The media also has a responsibility to be conflict-sensitive, minimise harm, and avoid sensationalism in its coverage of events and sensitive subjects. Therefore, in the process of covering and reporting on the current debate on FGM/C and the process of amending the law to lift the ban on this harmful traditional practice, journalists and media houses are being reminded to adhere to the general journalistic principles and the following ethical guidelines:

Public Interest and Social Responsibility

  • Promote and protect public health and safety
  • Respect the law

Part 2: Gender and sex

  • Not publish any material that promotes violence against any sex
  • Protect and promote the best interest of the survivor
  • Expose all forms of gender-based violence
  • Not stigmatise or discriminate survivors when reporting on gender-based violence issues
  • Avoid publication of material that promotes, sanctions or glamorises harmful traditional beliefs and practices
  • Under no circumstance ridicule survivor of gender-based violence

Part 3: Children

  • Protect and promote the best interest of the child
  • Place the best interest of the child above any other consideration
  • Ensure standard of excellence in terms of accuracy, sensitivity, responsibility, balance and objectivity when reporting on issues relating to or involving children
  • avoid the publication of sensational or stereotypical information relating to children

FGM/C is globally recognised as a violation of women and children’s rights, a gender-based violence, and a negative social norm. Therefore, the media, in keeping with its own professional standards, must observe these guidelines in all coverages of the practice and any other harmful practices against women and children.

Journalists and media houses are also being reminded of their duty to uphold the rule of law, and to hold anyone violating the rule of law to account, that certain acts contrary to these ethical guidelines may constitute a violation of certain laws including the Children’s Act, 2005.

We also encourage the country’s leadership and all arms of government to discourage this attempt to decriminalise FGM/C, which is intended to reverse years of advocacy, awareness creation, and progress registered for the social and economic benefits and progress of women and children in The Gambia.

As a country, if there is anything good to protect, adopt and uphold from a 22-year brutal dictatorship, and to be at the same level of progress and to maintain progressive legislations as some of our peers in Africa and around the world, the ban on FGM/C should be maintained and the law enforced.

The government must also be seen to respect and fulfil our obligations, including under regional and international laws promoting and protecting the rights of women and children.

– Ends

For inquiries,

Contact GPU Secretary General

Tel: +220 348 0043

Email: pressuniongambia@gmail.com

 

Executive Secretary

Media Council of The Gambia

mediacouncilgm@gmail.com

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