MTV Exit: Entertainment TV takes on human trafficking


Television gets blamed for lots of things that go wrong in our world. This isn’t surprising, given it’s the world’s most powerful medium and the key role it plays in our cultural, social and political lives.

A sociological study some years ago said broadcast TV was partly responsible for the movement of millions of people from villages to cities in search of jobs, higher incomes and better living standards. The glitzy lifestyles dramatised on TV was creating illusions in the minds of rural women and men, especially the youth, it said.

Of course, such migrants soon discover a very different reality in the cities. But few want to go back to where they came from. As they hang on in the cities, some fall prey to human traffickers, always on the prowl for vulnerable people to trade in.

The United Nations estimates that the total market value of human trafficking is 32 billion dollars — one of the most lucrative illicit trades in the world. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that worldwide, about 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking.

If TV indirectly contributed to this human perversion, it can also help society stand up and fight against it. As Music Television (MTV) is now doing.

MTV, the most popular music channel in the Asia Pacific region, will be playing a different tune in the weeks to come. For half an hour at least, beginning 18 September 2007 for MTV Thailand, live and hip music will give way to the harrowing accounts of three victims of human trafficking. This is part of the MTV Exit campaign.

Trafficking of people in the region will be given a human face through the personal accounts of Anna, Eka and Min Aung. Anna was forced into prostitution in the Philippines, while Eka is an Indonesian who was an abused domestic worker in Singapore. Min Aung from Burma recounts his sad experiences working and being practically imprisoned in a factory in Thailand for two years.

Lynette Lee Corporal writing for Inter Press Service (IPS) quotes MTV Thailand campaign director Simon Goff as saying: “We worked with organisations and talked with experts to see what forms of trafficking we would focus on, the most prevalent forms that affect our audiences. We selected regions that would best represent the issue. Then, finally we brought in a production team, led by a Thai producer and a director from the UK.”

More extracts from her article:

Goff said that it took them six weeks of pre-production work, including research and sourcing, another six weeks to shoot the documentary, and six weeks more of post-production work. It took about four and a half months of “solid production,” he added.

Beyond the emotional and unsettling accounts of the trafficking survivors and the disturbing re-enactments of rape, beatings and abuse, the documentary also had interviews with a trafficker and a ‘client’ who openly admitted to the crime. In an interview with ‘The Chairman’, a Filipino recruiter who forces young girls into prostitution, revealed the horrific experiences young girls go through, and this was reinforced by what ‘Ama’ , a Chinese client who admitted to paying for sex with trafficked girls, narrated.

The challenge now, said Goff, is to break the people’s apathy and denial about human trafficking. “Ultimately, time will tell. We have launched the campaign and it’s already out there in the media. We hope that the show will make people realise that they are both a part of and a solution to the problem,” he said.

In Thailand’s case, he added that it is also important for Thais to realise that it is not just about Thai victims being trafficked abroad, but it’s also “necessary to look that we have other nationalities, such as Min Aung, who has been trafficked here”.

Read the full article on The Asian Eye website of IPS Asia Pacific

Watch or download the celebrity-presented MTV EXIT documentaries for Asia Pacific and South Asia

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime website on human trafficking

More information on trafficking and how to fight it