Redlines are constantly crossed in media coverage of sexual assault, Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality chairwoman Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said Wednesday.
Lavie called a meeting on the topic days after the Channel 10 program Tzinor Layla drew criticism for featuring an interview with a seven-year-old victim of sexual abuse.
“In previous discussions on this matter, we decided to write an ethical code via dialogue with media sources,” Lavie said. “We need to make sure it is adopted by everyone.”
Lavie asked: “Is there no choice but to pass a law? Is determination by aid organizations not enough? These children are everyone’s children. The public space needs to be clean.”
Dr. Tehila Altshuler of the Israel Democracy Institute, who worked on the ethical code, said that while she is against passing laws to limit the media, the way to make sure an ethical code is implemented is for there to be a credible threat of legislation on the matter.
A representative of Keshet, one of Channel 2’s two production companies, said the organization had worked on the ethical code with Altshuler, accepted it and tried to implement it, going so far as to hold a workshop on the issue for middle management.
“There are a lot of mistakes” in media coverage of sexual crimes, reporter Linoy Bar-Geffen explained. “Everything is called sexual harassment, when sometimes the issue is rape or attempted rape. There’s ignorance, and no one feels like he shouldn’t be ignorant on the matter.”
According to Bar-Geffen, “journalists know libel and slander laws by heart in order to avoid lawsuits, but when we’re talking about a seven-year-old girl, no one bothers to check.”
Army Radio reporter Hadas Shteif said that media coverage of sexual crimes often received disproportionate criticism.
“People say we’re trying to drink the blood of suspects who are innocent,” she said. “Lack of evidence doesn’t mean someone is innocent. [Singer] Eyal Golan and [journalist] Emmanuel Rosen [both investigated for sexual assault] were not declared innocent.
“I don’t look for [sexual assault] complainants. They come to me, but they’re not willing to take the next step [to approach police], which has serious social ramifications,” Shteif said.
“Sexual assault is one of the most difficult traumas a person can undergo, and it is often magnified by harmful media coverage which makes the victim feel persecuted and exposed,” Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel director-general Orit Soliciano said. “The fear of exposure is often a determining factor on whether or not the victims turn to the police to complain.”