Lessons in Sexual Offences and News Reporting for Media Personnel

By
Updated: June 28, 2016

Two agencies in Belize with a focus on women and children recently conducted a Media Sensitization Workshop on sexual offences and responsible reporting.  We join Renee Trujillo for that story.

RENEE TRUJILLO REPORTING

The reports coming out of the Belize Police Department as the only source of information would prove inaccurate when it comes to determining just how prevalent sexual offences have become in Belize.  Majority of these cases are done against vulnerable persons ranging from young girls and boys to those with special needs and those who have limited means to survive.  Saturday, June 25 saw the National Committee for Families and Children and the National Women’s Commission holding a workshop geared at sensitizing the media on these offences and the importance of responsible reporting.  Attorney Baja Shoman sits on the Policy and Legislative Committee for NCFC; she spoke of sexual offences and the importance of this sensitization sessions.

BAJA SHOMAN

“It’s the act of touching, penetrating or any kind of activity that is sexual in nature there is provision for those types of activity on the new amendments to the criminal code which would protect persons not only females now but we are looking at persons, so a sexual offence is an offence which is sexual in nature, it looks at touching of another person or having that person touch you in a sexual nature whether it’s through penetration or whether it’s touching of the body part with the intent for it to be of sexual nature in looking at the anus, the vagina, the penis and it also includes the mouth. One of the goals that we were looking at is to have the reporting a little bit more child friendly or child protective. It is to ensure that the media understands the sections or the amendments to the law and to also ensure that when reporting it the protection of the child is of the paramount interest because when reporting it without realizing it sometimes in reporting certain situations the identity of the child is revealed or certain information about the child that can have an after effect. So in allowing the media to understand what the charges are and what the law provides for it can also look at reporting it and there will be a section which deals with the different terminology that is better to use in terms of reporting on crimes where children are involved.”

RENEE TRUJILLO REPORTING

“While the workshop was aimed at sensitizing the media, Attorney Dolores Balderamos Garcia who has served as Minister of Human Development, Women and Children, took this opportunity to challenge the media in following up on key areas of enforcement including the presence and maintenance of a Sex Offenders’ Registry.”

DOLORES BALDERAMOS GARCIA

“We also felt that we should put something in the amended criminal code and that is when we pushed for the register. It wasn’t supported by everybody but I can tell you that Honorable Patrick Faber and myself at the time we were both very much advocating and I am happy to say that there was certainly bipartisan effort in that regard and certainly when it comes to issues of the protection of children I think we have had a good history of acting together. Now I do know as we said in the forum that it’s on the law book, we don’t know if the police are implementing it but that is something that you can look into and I would invite the media to look into that aspect of it.”

RENEE TRUJILLO REPORTING

“Attorney Shoman says it is important that the enforcement of laws is crucial in Belize.  As it relates to the news reporting aspect of sexual offences, there are provisions in the law for media houses to be penalized.”

BAJA SHOMAN

“There is currently provision in the law where in terms of the reporting the media can be held accountable for their reporting. For example in the instance where inadvertently or intentionally we would never really know that the identity of a minor who was charged with a crime or who is the victim of a sexual offence their identity has been published by the media there is provision where a fine can be imposed on the media, the problem then is who reports that crime? Who is the one that takes the crime to the court to say “Well you need to be held accountable for that.” and that is where there has not been a lot of enforcement but there is the provision and the penalty is a fine.”

RENEE TRUJILLO REPORTING

 The media sensitization workshop was a 6-hour session hosted at the ITVET’s Training Room with presentations being done by the Executive Director of the National Women’s Commission, Ann-Marie Williams and Family Court Magistrate, Danea Grant.  Similar workshops have been had where officials from the Belize Police Department, Immigration, Labour Department, School Counsellors and Social workers were in attendance.  Reporting for Love News, I am Renee Trujillo.