BBC Hindi journalist wins fellowship

Divya Arya doing a piece to camera from an Indian clothes stall Divya Arya in Mizoram, which has higher rates of female education and reported sexual violence

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In the fast-moving world of multi-platform journalism, it's rare to get time to reflect on your work.

So BBC Hindi journalist Divya Arya knows she is in a privileged position, having recently won a four-month fellowship to analyse the reporting of sexual violence in India.

She will research how media portrayal has changed since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a female student in Delhi.

Usually based in the Indian capital, Divya was in London when the attack and subsequent protests happened.

Start Quote

It's really sad that a lot of stories are clubbed together as soft issues that should just be reported by women”

End Quote Divya Arya BBC Hindi

She was surprised by the demonstrations "because sexual violence is something Indians, I think, had developed inertia towards".

"It was like waking up to the reality of sexual violence and suddenly thinking, is Delhi that safe, is India that safe?

"It was making me feel a bit strange about my country, it was a place I feel very comfortable with."

Since then, there has been more media coverage of sexual assaults against women.

"There has been over-reporting possibly - sensational headlines and front page spreads, which are something we'd never seen in mainstream newspapers in India… Some of them were just eye-catching, titillating headlines and the kind of reporting that I got to do [for the BBC]… that contextual reporting is very scant."

Gendered lens

She believes that much of the coverage lacks the socio-economic and political subtext "behind the violence, or trends of women deciding to focus on careers or have fewer children".

"I think reporting from a gendered lens is very important.

"It's really sad that a lot of stories, which I think are much more important than others that get reported, are clubbed together as soft issues that should just be reported by women, because they're related to education, health, gender… I mean, why is violence not as important as politics, why don't we talk about sexual violence in the current election in India?"

As one of 21 international journalists selected for fellowships at the American University of Michigan, Divya will take advantage of the institute's communication and gender studies departments to research how sexual violence is reported in Hindi and English for leading Indian newspapers and TV channels.

With its fast-moving ticker and occasional sensationalism, Indian TV news has sometimes been described as having a lot of heat and less light, although that criticism could also be applied to other countries.

"I'm hoping that when I come back [to Delhi], I'll have a sharper eye and that will help me bring more light than heat!"

  • See more details of the Michigan fellows and their research here.

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