Media vs. LGBTsDecember 3, 2010 2:24 pm Reports
MALAYSIA–HOW is the Malaysian media measuring up to its role? If some newspapers’ treatment of what constitutes news is anything to go by, it is clear that some among the Malaysian media are not only unprofessional. They are also causing harm to vulnerable groups.
Some media organizations are targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Malaysia. A recent memorandum sent by concerned individuals to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) highlighted how newspaper reports frequently demonize the community as “deviant”, “lewd” and “disgusting”.
Regardless of one’s personal views about sexuality, the question is how does such reporting measure up against journalistic ethics, uphold public interest, and respect a person’s dignity? One way to answer that question would be to subject recent Malaysian reports on the LGBT community to the well-known principles of journalism ethics.
Minimizing harm is one of the foremost principles of ethical journalism. It is for that reason that minors’ names, sex crime survivors’ identities and grieving families, for example, should be treated sensitively in news reports. The underlying rationale is that however hot a story, all sources and subjects are human beings and deserve respect.
It is questionable however, whether the following Malaysian news reports do enough to minimize harm and accord the individuals being targeted respect for their rights and dignity.
“Dancing while licking their respective partners!” a Kosmo report entitled Parti lesbian berleluasa (Lesbians parties rampant) began. The report also recounted how most of the 100 people at the “wild party” were deviant or from golongan songsang (deviant group).
Or consider this headline: Pesta khatan berkepit pondan (Circumcision festivals with transvestites) in Harian Metro (Metro Daily) on the presence of transgenders dancing the joget (a type of local dance) with locals at a village circumcision festival.
And how about this headline: Aksi panas pengkid, lesbian, (Hot acts of lesbians) which contained a report on a private party for lesbians, which was infiltrated by undercover journalists.
Many of the reports focused on titillating details such as lesbian couples “making out lustily on beds while the music played” or “disgusting and frightening incidents of local gay teenagers who advertise themselves on social networking sites to obtain wild sex.”
Rather than aiming to minimize harm, these reports in fact set up LGBTs as targets for those who think they’re morally superior.