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October 16, 2018updated 30 Sep 2022 6:56am

IPSO publishes new guidance for journalists and survivors on reporting of sexual offences

By Charlotte Tobitt

New guidance has been issued on the reporting of sexual offences, which it is hoped will improve media coverage and support journalists “covering these issues in an increasingly time-pressured work environment”.

The update from the Independent Press Standards Organisation also includes information for survivors of sexual offences in order to help them understand how the press reports such cases.

The guidance for journalists will supplement Clause 7 (children in sex cases) and Clause 11 (victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, which protects victims’ identity.

It includes case studies, information on legal obligations, the rules on anonymity and avoiding jigsaw identification, and advises on language and interviewing survivors of sexual violence.

Charlotte Urwin, IPSO’s head of standards, said: “Part of IPSO’s wider regulatory role is to provide guidance, training and engagement which leads to tangible improvements in press standards.

“We recognise the importance of supporting journalists and editors to report responsibly on sexual offences, and helping them to understand both the legal framework and requirements of the Editors’ Code.”

The new information for survivors aims to help them understand the rules IPSO-regulated titles must follow, decide if they want to speak to journalists and know how to complain if they are unhappy with coverage.

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Almost all major national newspaper titles are regulated by IPSO.

The guidance was developed after IPSO staff met with survivors of sexual offences and domestic violence as part of the Angles project to improve the way sexual abuse is reported in the media, run by the On Road Media charity.

IPSO also held discussions with organisations which provide support to survivors, including Rape Crisis, Solace Women’s Aid, Lime Culture and Women’s Aid.

Urwin said: “The survivors we met talked about how sensitive media reporting of sexual offences helped them to speak about their own experiences and encouraged them to seek support.

“We wanted to help survivors who may come into contact with the media and have produced information which we hope they, and organisations who work in this area, will find useful.”

Nathalie McDermott, chief executive at On Road Media, said: “This guidance has come at such an important time for survivors who are speaking out in greater numbers since the #MeToo movement started.

“Most of them are doing so without support, without knowing their rights or how journalists work, or how to share their expertise and experiences on their own terms.

“We also know the difference sensitive reporting can make to survivors reading an article about abuse, and we welcome this support for journalists who are covering these sensitive issues in an increasingly time pressured work environment.”

Last week IPSO responded to calls for new guidelines, and a new clause in the Editors’ Code of Practice, relating to the reporting of domestic violence deaths.

The regulator said it would meet Level Up, the feminist campaign group which published its own suggested guidelines and launched a petition, in the next month.

IPSO has already published guidance on researching and reporting stories involving transgender people, publishing information taken from social media, and reporting deaths and inquests, including a section on suicide reporting.

Picture: Laura Dodsworth

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