The Nation newspaper is in hot water again.
This time, the strong chorus of condemnation can be heard reverberating from its Fontabelle, St Michael office right up to United Nations headquarters building in Christ Church over its treatment of an alleged incident of rape.
In a statement today, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, UN Women, UNFPA, ILO, PAHO and UNDP registered concern over an article in the Nation’s Saturday Sun of May 21, 2016, entitled “‘Gentleman’ gets taste of male medicine” which purports to make light of an alleged sexual assault against a lesbian.
“Violence is the most egregious form of discrimination society can perpetuate. Sexual violence is at no time a matter to be treated lightly – not as part of a rumour mill, not as a casual aside, and never for the sake of jokes and amusement,” said the international agency in response to the newspaper’s ‘Cou Cou and Pudding & Souse’ gossip column.
It pointed to the fundamental role played by the media “as an opinion shaper and influencer for societal change” while warning that “to make light of an alleged act of sexual violence is to do further harm to anyone who has been a victim of sexual violence directly or indirectly.
“It turns one of the most dehumanizing forms of violence into something acceptable and implies impunity for those who have perpetrated these acts of violence, rather than prosecution and punishment,” the UN agency added, pointing out that “too often when violence happens against women, or members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual and Intersexed (LGBTI) community, the focus of the media becomes on the morality of the victims and not that of the perpetrator.
“Sexual orientation, sex, race, physical ability, age – none of these factors set apart any individual to be violated,” the UN Women statement said, adding, “It is a shared responsibility of society in speaking out against all forms of violence, reporting such to the authorities for prosecution, seeing that the necessary support and justice is provided to victims and working to realize societies where everyone is able to live lives free of violence. That is the right of all Barbadians and one which the UN is proud to work with the Media, National authorities, Social Partners, NGOs, Academia, Churches and leaders to uphold.”
The Nation has also drawn the ire of local HIV/AIDS educator Jennifer Walker who stood in protest outside the newspaper’s Fontabelle office at noon today.
Walker blasted the media house saying, “the Nation has once again proven that it does not have sense of good journalism”.
Walker, who is planning to maintain her protest over the next two days, has invited Barbadians both to join her and to sign a petition against the act which she described as an injustice.
She said the incident brought to the fore the need for young people, especially women, to avoid excessive alcohol during Crop Over.
“As it relates to HIV/AIDS and alcohol excessive use, there is a direct link and lots of persons are putting themselves at risk when they indulge in excessive alcohol use. So I am sending a message to our young women especially to be careful and reduce your alcohol intake around Crop Over because it puts them at risk of things like forgetting to use condoms, or persons can have sex with them unknown to them. So I am cautioning them to reduce their alcohol intake at this time and to be careful not to take drinks from people that they don’t know because again persons are slipping things into people’s drinks and then they are having sex with them .”
Today, in a front-page comment, the paper offered a public apology for the article, admitting that its treatment of the story of rape was offensive.
Just recently top officials of the newspaper, including Editor-In-Chief Roy Morris and the then Publisher Vivian Anne Gittens, who has since resigned, were brought up on child pornography charges after the Saturday Sun published a picture and story of two minors engaging in sex in the classroom. On that occasion, the newspaper also drew the ire of the Barbadian public.