Recent leaks and ‘revelations’ by newspapers and speculation about the gender of South Africa’s 800m winner at the recent World Championships, Caster Semenya, have highlighted the critical role that media play in our world. It has also raised the issue of ethical reporting, i.e. what is right and wrong in the way stories are carried.
Whilst the international athletics body, the IAAF, has maintained, up to now, that no official findings has been released, that sensitive matters like these, will be dealt with confidentially and that any official findings will remain private, the current spate of media speculation by some newspapers, and the manner in which it is done, challenge one to speak out and raise a voice of concern and protest against these.
It should be noted that various church leaders have been requested to say something, to come out. None of the recognised churchleaders wanted to say anything. The URCSA presbytery of Tulbach, Tom Smith of Soulgardeners, however came back with a strong endorsement of this statement. It should be noted that bloggers like My contemplations and Emergen Bracken, also released Christian viewpoints on this critical matter.
1) We call all of us, including members of media, to respect the privacy and dignity of Caster Semenya and her family.
Let us remind ourselves that we all have been created in dignity and according to the image of God and have the right that this dignity are to be protected and respected.
2) Without pre-empting the findings of any investigation, we would remind all, that any reporting on the complex matters of sexual and gender identity, the personal dignity of the body of people, in particular women, need to be done with the utmost of care and sensitivity.
Within a particular historical context of abuse and the demonization of the female body and physicality, speaking on these matters is never innocent or objective. It either entrench the oppression of women or liberates.
3) We therefore call not simply for restraint, but also for reporting that upholds the dignity, challenge the frenzy and warped images and maintains the strong ethical code that distinguish fine journalism from newer forms of abuse and character assassination, in the quest for wider circulation and profits.
We denounce any speculation and crude reporting and call our members to consciously analyse, expose and boycott such reports.
We as faith communities want to hereby affirm our commitment towards an inclusive and humane society that upholds and protects the dignity of all people, in particular those who remain vulnerable.
We publically declare our full spiritual and pastoral support to Caster Semenya and her family. We will continue to pray for this young, outstanding Christian and her family and we thank God for her own church, who stand with a great cloud of witnesses alongside her.
We want to remind Caster of the words of God to his young prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you…”
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