Journalists play a very important role in raising awareness about issues happening in the society. The media is a body of professionals that can contribute to the advocacy on sexual and reproductive health and rights issues (SRHR), consequently shaping people’s opinions and perceptions through its messages. Unfortunately, there are not many journalists in Ghana working on SRHR advocacy.
We had a twitter chat on 12th June 2020, on the topic, “Challenges journalists face in reporting SRHR issues”. Our guest was Miss Erica Ehiamah, a Communications Development practitioner and youth advocate with Curious Minds.
The discussion started with her sharing her view on the importance of journalism. She said journalism was important in influencing key target audiences like policy makers, key stakeholders and the public. She also believes that journalism can “break the culture of silence” and high levels of stigma and discrimination associated with SRHR thereby promoting openness and public discourse.
Journalism can help break the culture of silence and high levels of stigma and discrimination associated with #SRHR issues by promoting openness and public discussions of these issues.#Vizchat— Erica Ama Korkor (@korkorerica) June 12, 2020
Miss Ehiamah expressed her concern about the Ghanaian media’s involvement in SRHR matters. She stated that the participation of journalists in the fight against gender-based violence so far has not been encouraging at all. She however did mention that the advocacy work of some of them are noticeable and impactful.
She further pointed out that journlists have different interests, that is the reason why we often might not have the media priotising SRHR unless there is a case of sexual violence.
As a student, i remember attending trainings organised by some organisations just to equip my skills and knowledge on SRHR.#Vizchat— Erica Ama Korkor (@korkorerica) June 12, 2020
Citizen journalism is a vital area that should also be taken seriously by the general public. Miss Ehiamah added that citizens/ individuals should be involved in advocacy on matters relating to SRHR. She said it is not the sole responsibility of the media to do the advocacy work, but also individuals need to stand up and speak up on issues. This contributes to the way SRHR issues are addressed and the need to get people informed and educated. Individuals must also play the watchdog role of ensuring that the right information is absorbed or shared, this was suggested by Miss Ehiamah.
It was not clearly identified as to whether there are enough journalists working on SRHR issues in Ghana. However, Miss Ehiamah indicated that it was prudent we had more hands pushing SRHR advocacy.
Journalists are obligated to report accurately. The speaker addressed that, in their report work, journalists must be guided by ethics and must therefore eliminate any form of sensationalism when reporting on SRHR issues. They are also to take precautions in protecting the identities of minors involved in sexual assault and other or gender-based violence cases.
Some challenges journalists face in their work were highlighted. According to Miss Ehiamah, journalists face the following challenges,
- Lack of information due to inadequate or unavailable research.
- Cultural barriers
- Lack of audience interest
Well, they may do, because as a journalist, verification of facts and information is vital. #Vizchat— Erica Ama Korkor (@korkorerica) June 12, 2020
She mentioned that one big challenge journalists face when accessing and processing information is lack of data current data. Unfortunately, much attention is not given to the importance of data and investing into research.
In addition to the challenges shared, Miss Ehiamah explained that there have been instances where she has been refused information from her target group/audience when reporting on SRHR issues. She mentions people she reaches out to for information are unwilling to share because they did not believe they have functioning institutions to help them in addressing their challenges. Nevertheless, there are some others she’s gotten positive responses from since they were willing to share the needed information.
In her line of work, Miss Ehiamah’s approach to getting information when reporting on SRHR issues are,
- Involving the audience.
- Getting information from the right institutions
- Getting data from credible websites
- Getting data from appropriate resource persons
The general public. Understanding the importance of #SRHR shouldn't only be important when we have high rates or teen pregnancies, HIV, or gender-based violence. But there should be a continues advocacy, to help people gain knowledge to make informed decisions.#Vizchat— Erica Ama Korkor (@korkorerica) June 12, 2020
In concluding the discussion, Miss Ehiamah spoke about how best journalists can promote SRHR advocacy. She said advocacy will only continue when we keep talking about issues on SRHR. She added that people must be educated to understand the concept of SRHR and all other issues related to it. She believes this will help solve SRHR issues amongst young people. Journalists also need enough training to help them in their report work.
Prioritising #SRHR is vital to achieving #Agenda2030 and other policies adopted by the country.#Vizchat— Erica Ama Korkor (@korkorerica) June 12, 2020