Dr. Johanna Foster, Associate Professor of Sociology at Monmouth University, presented her research on Media Ethics and Reporting on Yazidi Women Survivors of the 2014 ISIS Attack. The Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education (Chhange) at Brookdale Community College sponsored the October 3 event.

In August 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) perpetrated mass atrocities against the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq, including mass killings, forced conversions and the systematic rape and enslavement of Yazidi women. Foster studied the media’s response to the premeditated and gruesome attack against the Yazidi and the sensationalist journalism that focused on the rape and sex trafficking of Yazidi women.

Foster examined 75 articles covering the atrocities and compared the coverage to the United Nations Media Guidelines. She found that 100% of the articles examined violated at least one of the guidelines. This resulted in retaliation against women and girls still being held in ISIS prisons and created a singular, oversimplified narrative of passive survivors.

“We did find a set of breaches whereby the identities of women and their children were disclosed in ways that elevated the stigma of women survivors and found breaches that absolutely put women at risk for retaliation,” Foster said. In addition to examining the coverage, Foster went to refugee camps where Yazidi people, five years later, still live to interview survivors. She talked to them about the pressure they felt talking to the media and the repercussions the coverage of the events.

Foster’s presentation brought up questions of ethical journalism, race, ethnicity, class, global media and the media’s representation of women. For those interested in learning more about the media’s coverage of the event, Foster recommended the film On Her Shoulders that documents the struggle of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nadia Murad, survivor of the 2014 genocide of the Yazidis.