Guidelines for Media on Interviewing Victims and Survivors
In March 2019, following extensive consultation with victims and survivors and journalists and editors, guidelines on media engagement with victims and survivors were launched. One is for victims and survivors on how to engage with the media and one is for journalists, editors and educators on how to engage with victims and survivors and report on legacy issues.
‘I’ve always encouraged victims to speak up and tell their stories, share their stories because I think if you don’t share them people will never learn’.
This quote comes from a victim of the Northern Ireland conflict. It was made during an interview with the author as part of a broader project ‘Victimhood and Dealing with the Past’.
One of the key themes of this project was victim voice and, in particular, how voice is exercised, represented and mediated. Yet, while dealing with academic themes such as this, our project team (Dr. Cheryl Lawther, Prof. Kieran McEvoy and Dr. Lauren Dempster) had a firm ethical commitment to ‘giving something back’ to the individuals and communities we worked with and producing project resources that were practical, accessible and usable.
Drawing on the theme of voice, feedback from our interviewees and having become aware of a lack of comparable international work, that practical commitment translated into the production of two parallel sets of guidelines: one on victim/survivor engagement with the media, and one on journalist, editor and journalism educator engagement with victims and survivors.
This blog post reflects on the process of creating these guidelines. It does three things. First, it draws attention to the importance and challenges of hearing, representing and working with victims’ voices. Second, it details how the guidelines for media engagement were created and highlights the importance of consultation with victims and survivors and media professionals at every stage of the process. Thirdly, it showcases the key principles that inform the guidelines.
As such, this blog post highlights the importance of sensitive and ethical work for those who work with victims and survivors and seeks to encourage best practice on media engagement.
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Article originally appeared on the Justice Hub website.
Cheryl Lawther of Queen’s University Belfast is part of the project team ‘The Victims and Dealing with the Past’.