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Original Papers

Media portrayal of child abuse in Sri Lanka and the impact of two incidents of child abuse on media coverage

Authors:

A. Rodrigo ,

University of Kelaniya, Ragama, LK
About A.
Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine
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N. Liyanage

Colombo North Teaching Hospital, Ragama, LK
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Abstract

Background

Child maltreatment is increasingly being recognized as an important public health issue in` Sri Lanka. Most public knowledge in Sri Lanka on this issue, and direction for public policy, originate from mass media, which may sensationalise the issue.

Aims

This paper evaluates the themes and major discourses present in Sri Lankan print media on child abuse, and aims to determine if content, style and frequency of these news items have been affected by the tragic child abuse-murder incidents in 2015.

Methods

Articles on child abuse and their readers’ comments were manually selected from the websites of the two daily newspapers with highest readership in Sri Lanka during two 3-month periods, before and after the above mentioned incidents. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods were used to analyze the findings.

Results

The number of articles relating to child abuse increased significantly from 0.6% to 5% of the total articles reviewed in the two periods. The focus of the articles changed from merely reporting facts and highlighting the evil nature of child abuse perpetrators, to inefficiency of law enforcement authorities in finding and punishing perpetrators. Readership and online comments on these articles increased significantly in the post-incident period. Capital punishment for perpetrators was suggested by many readers in the post-incident period.

Conclusion

The Sri Lankan public is very sensitive to news on child abuse with formation of firm, at times extreme, viewpoints on how to manage this issue. Thus responsible and accurate depiction of child abuse by the media is important.
Keywords: Depiction Child abuse 
How to Cite: Rodrigo, A. & Liyanage, N., (2016). Media portrayal of child abuse in Sri Lanka and the impact of two incidents of child abuse on media coverage. Sri Lanka Journal of Psychiatry. 7(2), pp.3–7. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljpsyc.v7i2.8111
Published on 09 Dec 2016.
Peer Reviewed

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