Report Migrant Suicide Responsibly: An Open Letter to Emirates 247

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Aug 5 2013

This is a letter to Riyad Mickdaddy, Editor of business news website Emirates 247, about insensitive coverage of a recent migrant worker suicide in Saudi Arabia:

Dear Mr Mickdaddy,

We are writing to voice our concern about your coverage of the recent death of an Ethiopian woman working in Saudi Arabia. Your story ‘Maid Ends Life in Saudi’ (30/07/2013) showed a graphic image of the body of a maid who had ended her life by hanging herself in her employer's house (Warning this link contains an images that some readers may find upsetting).

We believe that publishing such images is disrespectful to the deceased, trivializes the problem of migrant worker suicides and does not serve the public interest.

The Samaritans publishes guidelines for the media on reporting suicide which you may find useful. In particular, the Samaritans advises against giving detailed descriptions of the suicide method as it can cause unnecessary distress to readers and may even encourage copycat suicides:

An easily obtainable means of death is easy to imitate, for example taking pills or jumping from a high place. Means of death where there is no easy form of intervention should also be avoided, as should the precise depiction of method. For example, showing how a hose pipe is attached to an exhaust and sealed up windows. Any detailed description of suicide method is potentially harmful.

Media and mental health organisation MindFrame also publishes guidelines on reporting suicide that may be helpful.

Your coverage of migrant women taking their own lives has repeatedly included graphic details, and has also trivialised the extent of the mental health problems that may have played a part in the situation, for example, as story about a maid with mental health problems who took her own life after claiming to 'see ghosts'. We have already called into question your reporting on / migrant women in the Gulf, particularly with regards to op-eds which trivialise the problems faced my migrant women, and urge you to make a similar reflection on the way that you report suicide and mental health problems.

Suicides of migrant workers in the Gulf region are, tragically, an all-too-common phenomenon. Many of those who take their lives will have experienced intolerable levels of physical, mental and sexual abuse. We feel that your recent reporting on the issue fails to take into account the wider context of human rights abuses in the Gulf, particularly against housemaids.

We have been documenting abuses of Migrant Workers in the Middle East for over six years, and are happy to brief you on the background should it help you to bring context to your coverage in future.

We encourage you to use your position as editor to promote informed dialogue about suicide and mental health issues, and to stop promoting negative images of female migrant workers.

Yours sincerely,

The Migrant Rights team.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East