In the second in our series of guest blogs highlighting our new external resources for journalists, Hardeep Singh, Deputy-Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), explains how the NSO’s media guidance can help journalists get a clearer understanding of Sikhism.
The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is a registered charity that links more than 130 UK gurdwaras and other UK Sikh organisations in active cooperation to enhance the image and understanding of Sikhism in the UK.
As part of our broader engagement with faith communities and our goal to improve religious literacy with reference to Sikhism in the media, we’ve produced a guide for journalists wanting to get a clearer understanding of the faith, its core beliefs and the unique Sikh identity.
This guide came about following a meeting with IPSO’s Director of Operations Charlotte Dewar and Head of Standards Charlotte Urwin in July 2017, forming part of their broader engagement with faith communities. At the time, we discussed some of the themes now explored in the guide including the ongoing challenge journalists have in sourcing appropriate comment from so-called ‘community leaders’, the use of the vague and expansive term ‘Asian’, and the consequences of ‘Islamophobia’ on other groups like Sikhs, who often find themselves marginalised in press coverage.
Since 9/11 there have been challenges to Sikh identity, which has often been misunderstood. At times it has been conflated with the appearance of Islamists like Osama bin Laden and also with grooming gang criminal cases like Rochdale and Rotherham. It is in the context of these issues that we decided to produce this guide, to give journalists who may not be familiar with Sikhism an insight into the history of the religion, along with a summary of some of the current issues and controversies faced by the community.
For ease of use, this document has been designed in an FAQ style. It is not a detailed insight into Sikh ethos, history and doctrine; rather it serves to explore important questions and issues, which journalists/editors themselves told us they wanted to know more about following a public consultation. For those who have a desire to delve more deeply into aspects of Sikh history, practice or religion, we’ve included some additional recommended reading by way of links and books.
Questions like ‘what is the definition of a Sikh’, ‘what are the 5Ks’, ‘what are the key Sikh festivals’ and ‘why do Sikhs wear turbans’ have been addressed, whilst also grasping the nettle of ‘issues and controversies’ like the 1984 Sikh genocide, for which this year we mark the 35th anniversary, with victims still seeking justice.
The guide provides the reporting press with the contact details for national Sikh organisations, who can assist time pressured reporters with snappy timely quotes and with accuracy. Finding reputable resources on items in the news or under public discussion is not always easy, and this is as true for religion as any other subject of public interest.
As far as we know, this is the first initiative aiming to improve media religious literacy about Sikhism in partnership with a press regulator in the UK. We believe this guide is an important resource for both local and national reporters, and hope it positively contributes to a healthy understanding of Sikhism, as well as a reference point to discuss the importance of religious literacy in the press more broadly. As a resource available to all and hosted by IPSO, we believe it is a step in the right direction to inform accurate and informed coverage on Sikhism and issues affecting British Sikhs.
IPSO’s external resources page contains guidance from a range organisations that offer advice for journalists along with numbers of press offices, which may be useful. Journalists are not obliged to follow these guidelines, which are separate to the Editors' Code, but may find them helpful when reporting on sensitive and challenging issues.
It is not an exhaustive list and we hope the page will grow organically as we become aware of new or other resources which may be of interest to journalists. If you are an organisation, and would like information to be featured on this page, please contact Standards Officer Rosemary Douce at firstname.lastname@example.org