WORKING WITH THE MEDIA – Working together on improving the reports on LGBTI persons
For six years, the Sarajevo Open Centre has been dedicated to working with the media and media representatives in the battle against prejudice and stereotypes towards LGBTI persons who are often the recipients of irresponsible media reporting, and in order to improve the reporting on LGBTI persons. The key of this work are analyses in the media representation of LGBTI persons, School for students of Journalism and Communicology and young journalists, and info sessions and cooperation with media partners.
By Lejla Huremović
In the contemporary society, the media are the most important way of communication, and can contribute to the improvement of LGBTI human rights. The continuity and sensibility in the journalists’ approach and knowledge is of paramount importance for stereotypes and prejudices not to cross over from the sphere of the media to the general sphere of the society. Having that in mind, SOC started monitoring and analyzing the representation of LGBTI persons in the media six years ago, and according to the analyses, we started working on concrete steps in contributing to professional and ethical media reporting.
For five years in a row, SOC has been organising the School for students of Journalism and Communicology and young journalists called Responsible Journalism: LGBTI persons and the media. We believed that it was necessary to work with young people, university students who are entering media outlets and starting with their reports on various topics, including LGBTI persons. Since it is a familiar fact that the faculties in BiH do not pay enough attention to the reporting on LGBTI persons, we understood the importance of creating such a school and offer to at least a small number of students the chance to learn more about LGBTI persons and reporting on LGBTI topics. More than 70 students and young journalists completed the training and they are our associates today, reporting on LGBTI topics in a professional manner while working in the media. Some of the participants of this School have become permanent or guest associates of our LGBTI.ba portal.
Info sessions and LGBTI.ba portal
In 2012, we published the Manual for Journalists on Professional and Ethical Reporting on LGBT Topics – Outside the Four Walls, and in 2013, Short Guide through Professional Reporting on LGBT Topics, with the aim of contributing to better understanding and reporting on LGBTI persons.
In 2013, we started the first LGBTI info portal in BiH, initially called Lgbt-prava.ba, and in 2014, it was renamed to LGBT.ba, and finally in 2016 to LGBTI.ba. This is a platform to start and raise different questions of importance for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersexual persons. From March 2014 to mid-August 2017, it was visited 346,364 times
Since 2013, we started our monthly info sessions, with the aim of placing certain topics in the media which had not been reported about or had been reported in a wrong, stereotypical, sensationalistic way. The info sessions proved to be a good way to directly address certain topics, and meet journalists on the spot and talk to them about LGBTI topics.
All the activities were conducted with the intention to influence media reporting in a qualitative and quantitative way, and thus contribute to the visibility of LGBTI persons in the public.
In 2013, we started the first LGBTI info portal in BiH, initially called Lgbt-prava.ba, and in 2014, it was renamed into LGBT.ba, and finally in 2016, into LGBTI.ba. This is a platform to start and raise different questions of importance for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersexual persons. From March 2014 to mid-August 2017, it was visited 346,364 times.
Direct cooperation with the media
For five years, SOC has been organising the School for students of Journalism and Communicology and young journalists called Responsible Journalism: LGBTI persons and the media. More than 70 students and young journalists completed the training and they are our associates today, reporting on LGBTI topics in a professional manner while working in the media
Another important segment during these years was direct cooperation with the media which we recognized as important allies in our battle. We have worked directly with portals: bljesak.info, tacno.net, 6yka.com, e-trafika.net, radiosarajevo.ba, klix.ba, TV and radio outlets: Federal Television, Radio Free Europe, BH Radio 1 and many others.
Through monitoring and analysis of media reporting, we concluded that there was space for reporting on LGBTI topics, and that a growing number of journalists was engaged in reporting about the problems and lives of LGBTI persons. Since 2015, the tendency of increased reporting on LGBTI topics has continued, both in a qualitative and quantitative manner. For comparison purposes, in 2016, there was a total of 1299 media postings, while approximately the same number of postings was noted in the first half of 2017. We are happy about this and we hope that this tendency will continue, especially when talking about professional, non-sensationalistic approach to reporting about LGBTI persons.
In our work with the media over the last six years, we have contributed to the visibility of LGBTI topics and persons in BiH media. We managed to offer the LGBTI community credible and relevant information on LGBTI rights and everyday life through the first and only LGBT info portal LGBTI.ba. We created a space for the voice of the LGBTI community in BiH to be heard through different media campaigns on web portals, television, radio and print media.
Marija Arnautović, a journalist at Radio Free Europe and long-term associate at SOC
SOC played the most important role in promoting the rights of LGBTI persons through cooperation with the media
We started the cooperation with the Sarajevo Open Centre several years ago. Since Radio Free Europe is committed to reporting and promoting human rights we followed the activities of SOC before as well, but the actual cooperation began with our special program. It seems to me that we all learnt a lot through our work together. We received immeasurable assistance from the people from SOC, in the form of advice, contacts etc., whether we covered topics about endangering the rights of LGBTI persons or created shows which dealt with hate crimes. It seems to me that the Sarajevo Open Centre team has shown a more responsible approach than other non-governmental organisations regarding the cooperation with the media and they have shown this in the best possible way throughout the years. Thus, it seems that BiH society is more open today to listen to stories which were an absolute taboo several years ago.
In my mind, the Sarajevo Open Centre played the most important role in promoting the rights of LGBTI persons, and all topics regarding their rights. They did this in a unique manner – through cooperation with the media and training the media, which I think is the most important link in the process of raising awareness of the society on specific topics. This work is visible if we take a look several years in the past, when there were absolutely no topics in the media regarding LGBTI persons, and the situation is very different today. I think that it is all owing to SOC and the cooperation they managed to establish with the media, as few other non-governmental organisations managed to do in BiH, as well as their continuous engagement in training journalists how to report on these topic in an appropriate way.