The Media is a powerful tool to raise awareness about human trafficking. In some cases, the media can even play a significant role in locating missing persons through investigative reporting and prompting action from authorities.
Journalists are critical agents in exposing the clandestine problem of human trafficking and bringing the issue to public attention. The media’s influence on shaping public and political discourse about human trafficking is widely recognized by international bodies, governments, and non-governmental organizations.
Just as the Media act as key drivers of information on human trafficking, it also contributes to the spread of misinformation on the issue. Sensationalist reporting, simplistic representations, and insensitive commentary falsely depict individual stories and encourage misguided perceptions about the overall issue. Bad practices of reporting on human trafficking can be damaging to victims and survivors, whether by exacerbating trauma by insensitive questioning, or violating individual privacy.
Too often, reporters are not equipped with comprehensive knowledge of human trafficking and the complexities of the issue.
A United Nations panel on the news media’s role in exposing human trafficking in 2010 highlighted the various factors that contribute to harmful reporting on the issue and identified key areas for improvement, including: understanding of the trauma victims have gone through; greater objectivity; awareness of privacy and security issues; and more human representations of victims and survivors.
Today, journalists faced with the challenges of reporting on human trafficking do not have access to adequate understanding of the laws and legal protocol around dealing with trafficked cases and persons.
In addition, they are not equipped with insights that help understand the deep psychological impacts of human trafficking, are not appropriately sensitized to issues of gender, and can falter when dealing with people who have been affected by human trafficking.