Media as the key against LGBTQ-discrimination

May is a month during which we celebrate our freedom. And we’re not just talking about the Dutch Liberation Day (May 5th). May 3rd marked World Press Freedom Day, a day which stresses the importance of free press and freedom of expression. Meanwhile, today, May 17, marks IDAHOT, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The China Rainbow Media Awards initiative aims to connect these topics, showcasing unbiased media reporting about gender.

Yanzi, Programme Officer of the China Rainbow Media Awards, explains the importance of press freedom to sexual minorities. “Our team focuses on mainstream media coverage of LGBTQ topics. For us, press freedom is about both reporting about sexual minorities and also about truthful reports about things happening in their lives. The way the media also reports about what’s happening in everyone else’s life. For instance about employment, health care, marriage, retirement and so on.” According to Yanzi, media can play a key role in creating more understanding for sexual minorities. “Understanding is the foundation to prevent discrimination. So in that sense, press freedom can decrease discrimination.”

The Rainbow Media Awards’ aims are fourfold. Besides doing media monitoring, they also work on community empowerment, press industry trainings and the annual China Rainbow Media Awards. No easy feat, Yangzi explains: “For the past year, it’s been difficult to find enough coverage to make a good analysis. If it’s just a technical issue we can work on solutions, but the total amount of coverage has decreased compared to previous years. We can’t change that. This overall decline in coverage and the quality of it is one the key findings of our report.” A possible explanation according to Yangzi is the market-oriented media: “Nowadays, social media and the mainstream media aim to attract high volumes of traffic. This makes they often focus on social stars, celebrities or adverts, rather than social issues, especially LGBTQ topics.”

Amount of LGBT-coverage over the past years

Making a change

Cooperating with media can help change this. After all, it’s not just about reporting about LGBTQ-rights or developments. All expert-media in fields such as academics, arts or other industries can help create objective reports about the LGBTQ-community. Training can help journalists to find an angle to report about sexual minorities professionally.

But it’s also about providing the community itself with practical pointers. “Giving a voice needs to start with the community, and if the LGBTQ-community itself doesn’t know how to do this, it’s hard for the media to help,” explains Yangyi, programme officer of the China Rainbow Media Awards. Training for community members includes training on advocacy, discussing for instance how to talk with the public and media, how to facilitate public discussion and so on. “This way, we can create more visibility and let the public understand what individuals in the LGBTQ-community are like. Only by seeing and through open dialogue can we provide them with the opportunity to really understand and thus prevent discrimination or judgment.”