Public Safety

Authored by: Sonja Wolf

The Routledge Companion to Media and Human Rights

Print publication date:  June  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138665545
eBook ISBN: 9781315619835
Adobe ISBN:


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Crime and violence constitute a significant social problem throughout the world, but it is in developing countries that homicides and gang activity have become apparently intractable public policy challenges. The media play a critical role in informing citizens about delinquency and violence, and the way they do so has important repercussions for people’s perceptions of security concerns and the policies they require. This chapter draws on the existing research literature to examine the general trends in media coverage of public safety issues and their human rights implications. It argues that the prevalence of commercial media, with their reliance on certain news production styles and routines, results in mostly decontextualised news content that distorts the social reality of crime, helps increase audiences’ fear of crime, and elicits preferences for punitive strategies. The chapter begins by discussing media depictions of public safety matters, as well as the effects and production process of crime news. Subsequently, it explores alternative approaches to covering violence and criminality before appraising the use of social media. The chapter concludes with some reflections on the possibilities for greater media diversity and more analytical reporting.

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