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New Guidelines for Journalists Reporting Domestic Abuse

23 Aprjournalist typing out new guidelines for domestic abuse reporting

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has announced the introduction of some guidelines for journalists when reporting on domestic abuse stories. The purpose of the guidelines is to prevent insensitive reporting of cases, which has caused great distress for families and friends of victims. The announcement followed a campaign from feminist organisation Level Up, with a petition that attracted over 20,000 signatures and a Twitter account that highlights examples of insensitive reporting.

Independent Regulator

IPSO is the independent regulator for most of the UK’s newspapers and magazines. They hold these publications to account – ensuring reporting is fair and accurate, and maintaining a high standard of journalism. All members of IPSO must follow the Editors’ Code, which is a framework to maintain high professional standards and allow publications to self-regulate. 

The Editor’s Code offers guidance on how to report on crime and other potentially sensitive stories but does not currently have any guidance on how to report on cases of domestic abuse. Level Up identified five key areas where IPSO could provide guidance for journalists reporting domestic abuse.

  • Accountability. Place responsibility solely on the abuser, which means avoiding speculation about “reasons” or “triggers”. Abuse should not be described as an uncharacteristic event. Homicides in particular are usually underpinned by a longstanding sense of ownership, coercive control and possessive behaviours: they are not a random event.
  • Accuracy. Name the crime as domestic violence, instead of “tragedy” or “horror”, and include the National Domestic Violence Helpline at the end of the article: 0808 2000 247.
  • Dignity. Avoid sensationalising language, invasive or graphic details that compromise the dignity of the dead woman or her surviving family members.
  • Equality. Avoid insensitive or trivialising language or images.
  • Imagery. Avoid using stock images that reinforce the myth that domestic abuse is only a physical crime.

The media is a fantastic tool to raise awareness of domestic abuse, especially coercive control which is often not widely recognised. Increasing public understanding of the complexities of domestic abuse could encourage more people to access support.

We hope that the proposed guidelines will be universally adopted and lead to a more sensitive approach to reporting on domestic abuse. Sharing details of helplines and support services will increase people’s awareness that there is help available. 

The National Domestic Violence Helpline number is 0808 2000 247

Leeway have a 24-hour emergency contact number for people who are experiencing domestic abuse in Norfolk and Suffolk: 0300 561 0077

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