The Journalism Fund hosted a webinar on how NGOs and investigative journalists can form more efficient partnerships while respecting the independence of journalists. During the webinar, investigative journalists who frequently report on human trafficking provided insights and tips on how journalists can correctly report on human trafficking.

Despite media interest in human trafficking, NGOs have noted some problems with how human trafficking is reported by the media.

Merel Brouwer is a researcher for La Strada International, a platform that fights against human trafficking. She listed the ways journalists do not correctly report on human reporting.

Firstly, there is a major focus on sexual exploitation as it ‘sells’: stories often focus on female victims, describing where, by whom and how they were sexually exploited, as well as the arrest and trial of the perpetrators. This way of reporting “is problematic because it further embeds the stereotypes and legitimises the dominant and incorrect view that human trafficking is a crime that only affects women in the sex trade”.

Secondly, there is a heavy reliance on sensational stories. Brouwer explained that many journalists try to find information that is shocking and can cause outrage and “rarely do we see articles about what happened to the victims. For example, did he or she receive the necessary mental and legal support and how were the victims treated by law enforcement”.

Thirdly, there is a strong interest to speak with ‘victim’, “journalists often want to interview the victim but is it really in the best interest of the victim? Have you thought about the secondary victimisation and the risks,” said Brouwer.

Lastly, information in articles is not always correct or well-checked. Brouwer said that it is important for journalists to work with NGOs in order to get correct information on particular cases.

Sasa Dragojlo, a journalist at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, shared his experiences in reporting on labour exploitation. Dragojlo said it is important for journalists to spend time researching and following cases of human trafficking. My commitment to these kinds of topics has helped to establish trust and authority on these topics and people are able to approach me about these topics including workers, unions and NGOs,” said Dragojlo.

“Journalists need to respect the ethics code, protect sources and confidentiality – they are not just sources but are victims. Many journalists instrumentalise the victims in order to publish a story,” said Dragojlo.

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