Thu, Aug 30, 2007 - Page 2 News List

NGOs urge journalists not to sensationalize reports

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Non-governmental organizations (NGO) and concerned individuals yesterday urged media organizations to be socially responsible when reporting on suicides and gender-related news.

They made the remarks at a Taipei conference hosted by the Taiwan alliance for Advancement of Youth Rights and Social Welfare, which was organized in cooperation with other NGOs.

"Media organizations have the responsibility to help guide society in a positive direction," said Chang Te-chung (張德聰), an assistant professor at National Open University's living sciences department.

Chang cited suicides as one subject media must be report on responsibly.

"Intensive news reports on suicides, especially celebrity suicides, could cause an increase in suicide," he said.

Chang cited a study by a Japanese academic, Yoshitomo Takahashi, which found that suicides in Japan had increased 44 percent in 1986 compared with the preceding two years, "which may have been caused by a lot of news coverage and even detailed description of a popular singer's suicide," he said.

Instead of putting suicide reports on the front page with graphics, "the media should tell readers what other options are in a similar situation," Chang said.

"Never sensationalize a suicide," Chang said.

Meanwhile, Wang Cheng-tung (王正彤) of the Awakening Foundation, urged the media not to report on gender-related issues in a discriminatory manner.

"Although the low birth rate is perhaps the result of many complicated factors, certain recent media reports seem to link it to an unwillingness by women with higher education to get married," Wang said, adding that this put discriminatory blame on women instead of examining the full range of societal factors in play.

Wang also criticized media for focusing on negative depictions of homosexuals and implying sexually transmitted diseases are a result of homosexuality.

Wang said references to homosexuality are used to sensationalize news and are often unnecessary, showing a newspaper article titled Gay home party busted with condoms scattered on the floor.

"You would agree this is unnecessary if the title had been `heterosexual party busted,' wouldn't you?" Wang said.

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