Human Trafficking – Is the Media Telling the Right(s) Story?

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Well, is it? 

There was a lot of fear and publicity around human trafficking for sex work around the World Cup. On television and in cinemas, public service announcements warned that the soccer tournament would lead to 100,000 women and children being trafficked. Now we’re reading articles that are questioning what happened and how it was reported.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) wants to examine whether the media has been giving a full and accurate account of human trafficking.

“Sex trade hyped”, a recent article in The Citizen (22/10/2010 p.1 & 3), described the reporting around sex work, human trafficking and the World Cup as a “media frenzy.”

MMA is asking why this ‘media frenzy’ occurred and whether it was helpful or harmful. Has it raised awareness or has it simply resulted in trafficking fatigue?

Trafficking in South Africa exists but it is hidden, complex and still frequently misunderstood. That is the view of both Detective Sergeant Marcel Van der Watt of the Hawks and Babalwa Makhawula from the New Life Centre. They both work with victims of human trafficking and participated in a soon to be released radio documentary produced by MMA child reporters.

The media has a role in challenging unhelpful assumptions about human trafficking, to give a more accurate account of what’s really involved.

• Human trafficking does not always involve moving a victim from one country to another.
• In South Africa trafficking from one province to another, or from rural to urban areas are common forms of human trafficking.
• Women and children may be trafficked and exploited by people they know, by their parents, their relatives or their partners.

Unfortunately media can also jump to conclusions. For example MMA questions why Eyewitness News recently reported an apparent attempted kidnapping at a park as potential trafficking. (“Police search for suspected human trafficker at Zoo Lake” Eyewitness News 22/10/2010).

While the term “trafficking” may grab attention, overuse of the term may simply lead to public cynicism, or worse to the assumption that trafficking is easily identifiable and readily avoided.

MMA is working with children, media, NGOs and other interested and involved parties to create an environment in which myths about human trafficking are unpacked and a more comprehensive picture emerges of modern slavery in South Africa, and what we can do to stop it.

Join us as we launch our new website: Child Protection and Trafficking www.mediamonitoringafrica.org/cpt

@ 3rd Annual Jo’burg Child Welfare LEKGOTLA (8am -12pm)
(Website launch @ 11am)
Wednesday 27th October 2010
Apartheid Museum,
Northern Parkway & Gold Reef Road,
Ormonde,
Johannesburg

RSVP
Melanie Hamman
Project Coordinator
Media Monitoring Africa
melanieh@mma.org.za
Cell: +2783 6619223
Tel: +2711 788 1278

or
Laura Fletcher
Advocacy and Research Officer
Media Monitoring Africa
lauraf@mma.org.za
Cell: +2773 0463404
Tel: +2711 788 1278

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