UWI’s media workshop on portrayal of violence
A media workshop was held at the University of the West Indies today in Belize City under the auspices of their alumni association. The association intends to become a catalyst for social awareness and to change the portrayal of violence through the media. Belize is one of the most murderous countries in the region and the world and with that in mind; the association has brought in Jamaican Sociologist and Head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Doctor Leith Dunn, to carry out sessions and forums with the wider community. The workshops will continue through Wednesday with the theme, “Media and the Portrayal of Violence, Its Effects on Children and the Wider Community.” At the UWI Open Campus Auditorium, various representatives from the local media attended a workshop with Doctor Dunn where several issues were addressed including the current and future responsibilities of media in reporting crime and violence; the ethical standards as well as the conventions with respect to reporting violence against women and children. Doctor Dunn also discussed the Belize Broadcasting Authority and its mandate as the regulatory body.
Dr. Leith Dunn, Sociologist
“This was an opportunity for dialogue—to look at what the situation in the media is; to hear from the journalists what their own concerns are and to make a distinction between journalists and reporters; to look at the landscape of the media in Belize and to see what some are the challenges are for ethical reporting. We are saying that it is not that you should not have censorship, but you need to avoid sensationalism. And what we have observed online and in the print is that you have the images and text for the least comedy nominated—the gourd, the blood and all of that that violates basic rights, basic principles of international standards of journalism. It says that we need to dialogue with our media owners, our advertisers; we need to do a lot of research and not assume this is what the audience wants. We need to think about the impact of this on our children and the wider society and the economy. Because if we continue the way we are, we are in fact destroying legitimate business. People will not want to invest in Belize because they are afraid of crime and violence. So I am encouraging us to actually collaborate, to find out what the international best practices are, to do a lot of research, to do a lot more training so that we can in fact equip the persons responsible for communicating to be more effective. It is our collective responsibility. The regulators who say what is aired, how it is aired, what are the licenses that are given and ensuring that those are monitored; they are part of the solution. What you can control, you must and it is not censorship. It is saying that there are certain sensibilities and we should not cross those lines. You have a responsibility as an agent of socialization in developing behaviors, in changing attitudes to build a better society—nobody else can do it. And if you have novices who are not trained—and it is no disrespect—I am just saying that we can do much better and we have to do a lot better.”