Poor coverage of violence against women, study shows

There is a lack of media coverage on the laws, issues and policies relating to violence against women, a study by the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre has found.

“This is an intractable social issue that you have to keep chipping away at,” the centre’s director Lisa Vetten said in a statement on Tuesday.

“If you stop chipping away because of boredom, you are allowing abuse to worsen and doing a disservice to women.”

She said rapes in South Africa remained unacceptably high and the number of women murdered had increased over the past two years.

The study looked at how rape was covered in the media from October 2008 to September 2009, with over 3 100 articles from 17 publications being analysed.

Of all Gauteng daily newspapers, the Pretoria News generated almost a quarter of the media coverage about rape.

Rape rarely the focus
IOL generated 71.8% of stories about rape in its online coverage.

The study found that rape was rarely the focus of opinion editorials or analysis, with only 4.2% of articles falling in this category.

Discussion of policies or laws about rape generated only 4.5% of media coverage and a third of all stories were only five lines or less.

Online publications, it said, were the least likely to provide any type of analysis about rape, with 0.6% of articles falling into this category.


The police were frequently quoted in a third of the stories covering rape. Non-government associations provided comment in 11.2% of stories.

“There is not enough comment from NGOs and not enough contextualisation of the issues,” said Vetten.

‘Political will’
The study found that court proceedings attracted journalists’ attention more often, with 34.2% of articles focusing on bail applications and trials.

Incidents of rape generated 30.5% of stories, while police investigations were the focus of 11.6% of reports.

The analysis showed that the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women and Children generated 1.7% of media coverage.

“The importance of in depth media coverage cannot be overemphasised,” said Vetten.

“We must work together to generate political will and to change the way people perceive abuse.” — Sapa

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