Changing Perspectives Pt 2

In 2008, postgraduate students of the NUI Galway Philosophy department carried out a review of local print media’s portrayal of Global South issues. This review was shared with aid agencies and journalists of the papers. Three years on, the GOWC wanted to find out if anything had changed and asked Fiona Mitchell to carry out a similar exercise. This Report presents her findings.

While there seems to have been a slight shift regarding terminology being used by journalists, the majority of articles from or concerning aid agencies still give a very negative portrayal of the Global South. While not all aid agencies mentioned in the report have subscribed to the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages, it is clear that those who do subscribe are just as liable to portray the Global South in a purely negative and stereotypical manner as are those who don’t. Taking into account the recent ‘Finding Frames’ Report, it becomes obvious that aid agencies urgently need to reconsider how they engage the public in their work.

The report also highlights that there don’t seem to be clear guidelines when it comes to reporting on crimes or the use of pictures when identifying those convicted of crimes (something that was also highlighted in the previous report). This is as much an issue for the journalists and editors as it is for designers and typesetters; and could be addressed through the drawing up of guidelines by the NUJ and specific training for student journalists as well as current staff of print media.

The GOWC calls on aid agencies to reflect seriously on the issues raised in this in report. While the GOWC notes the weaknesses of the Code of Conduct, in the absence of a better framework we call on all international development groups that haven’t subscribed to it to sign up and to carry out substantive training on images and messages; and for all signatories to actively implement the code across all sections in their organisation especially in relation to fundraising and publicity.