Samira Ahmed, behind the scenes with C4 news
Jess McCabe // 14 March 2010
Subtext Magazine has posted an enlightening piece by Samira Ahmed from Channel 4 news, which looks at how international news is reported.
Among other things, she talks about reporting on ‘corrective’ rapes in South Africa:
There is a challenge there in how to cover a story. I found myself challenged when I did the South Africa story last year on ‘corrective rape’ – with gangs targeting lesbian women. Was it patronising? Was it racist, as some men I met suggested, to go on about African men and rape? But the fact was, the story was not being covered in South Africa and the women’s group campaigners were so pleased to have someone keen to cover the issue.
The piece was focused on what the women themselves were doing. I met a network TV reporter outside the Johannesburg high court on my first day’s filming about a protest over delays to rape trials, who told me editors weren’t interested in the rape of some lesbian township women because there’s so much violent crime in South Africa already. I’m fascinated by how the poorest always get neglected and I was able to make that part of the story. The day after it ran the South African High Commission in London rang up to ask for a transcript. Some South African bloggers also picked up on the embarrassment for the authorities (whose complacency was implicated in the report) as I’d deliberately linked the story to the tourist drive for the upcoming football World Cup finals.
Crucially you need time – not two minutes – to give all that context. I had nearly seven minutes. And I do feel while there are some terrific foreign correspondents, (the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen and C4’s Jonathan Miller spring to mind) there are still far too many ignorant ones who go in with an arrogant attitude and little empathy. Some of the accounts I’ve heard from producers over the years about the insensitive questions or attitudes to traumatised people are really shocking.