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Recommendations for a journalistic and ethical reporting on human trafficking

The more widespread and utilized a press medium is, the more trust it enjoys from the general population. Most people do not inform themselves by reading reports, meaning that media has a direct contribution on the formation of opinion. All journalists who adhere to the Press Code of the German Press Council should take this information and investigative mission seriously.

KOK finds the following aspects especially important to keep in mind in compiling an article or report on human trafficking, with respect to those affected:

  • Calm reporting that avoids hysteria and the undue construction of threatening situations, and that does not criminalize migration
  • Avoid clichés
  • Sound research, which acknowledges there are no precise figures on the number of trafficked persons, and that the lives and situations of those affected are usually highly complex
  • Avoidance leading questioning: organizations such as KOK are repeatedly contacted by journalists who merely want confirmations of preconceived hypotheses rather than relying on the expertise of professionals
  • Putting forth the whole picture, for example, by focusing on the situation of those affected and the problems that arise in working in counseling
  • A critical and separate debate on the issue of prostitution, which avoids equating sexual exploitation and human trafficking
  • Creating new imagery that shows those affected as strong, active subjects with the ability to shape their own lives, avoiding stereotypical depictions of sexualized victims
  • Protect the rights and identifies of the people in question; the German Press Council has, to this effect, amend Article 8, “Privacy Protection” of the Press Code in March 2013, particularly recognizing the protection of victims of crime and of minors as centrally important.

The important role of the media in combating of sexual violence and of structural violence, especially to women and girls, is increasingly recognized in international forums. The Agreed Conclusions document from the 57 UN Commission on the Status of Women is only one example emphasizing media’s role.

A new culture of debate on the issue of trafficking is necessary to try and involve all views and lead an objective discussion. The KOK appeals to all journalists to commit to these ethical standards and is willing to support journalists in responsible reporting with its expertise on the topic.

You can access the complete KOK statement on "Media's treatment of human trafficking in 2013 - a critical interjection here.

© KOK- German NGO network against trafficking in human beings