If you don’t want to contribute to the rise in mass murders…
Don’t start your report with police sirens
Don’t publish the murderer’s photographs.
Don’t report about it day and night.
Prevent the number of victims being the main story.
Don’t turn the murderer into an anti-hero.
Localize the story and try to make it as dull as possible.
Advice from a forensic psychiatrist to the media about reporting on cases of mass murders.
On Saturday night, in a village close to Velika Plana, a man killed his ex-wife and then himself. On Sunday, in a town near Kanjiza, a man murdered his daughter-in-law, her parents, his ex-wife, her parents, after which he was killed by another person he attacked. On Monday, in Cacak, a man killed his wife and then himself.
There is an epidemic of femicide in Serbia. As the Autonomous Women’s Center, the Women Against Violence Network, and the Women in Black said in their statement regarding these three cases, 20 women were murdered by their partners, ex-partners or other male members of their families since the beginning of this year. It’s clear that something must be done to stop this.
The media could play an important role in this. However, their actions so far have shown that they’re unwilling to contribute to the solution. On the contrary, in order to boost their circulation, they create an atmosphere which makes it difficult for the victims to ask for help and to receive it. I’m not a forensic psychiatrist, but I’ve been active in media analysis for years, so I will offer several pieces of advice to the media on how to report about cases of domestic violence.
Don’t call these murders tragedies. Tragedies are unfortunate events which are impossible to prevent; murders which result from domestic violence are crimes which are announced for months or years.
Don’t blame the victim for the crime. This means avoiding titles like “He killed/wounded/got into a fight over… a woman”.
Don’t speculate about the motives of the crime. Leave that to the police.
Don’t publish endless interviews with the victim’s or murderer’s family members, neighbors, etc. They can’t provide any relevant information.
Don’t write about how the murderer was “a nice and quite man”.
Don’t publish the details of the crime.
Don’t publish photographs from the crime scene.
Don’t individualize and tabloidize the cases. Place them into a larger context of gender-based violence.
Publish only the most necessary information.
Publish information which can help your readers help victims of domestic violence in their communities. This means information on how to recognize the violence, how to help the victim, who to report it to.
Publish the SOS hotline number for women and children victims of violence.
If the officials state something problematic, don’t publish it without a comment.
Point out the institutional mistakes. You are the public tool to put pressure on the officials.
You have an opportunity to contribute to solving this problem. Don’t be the part of it.
Translated by Marijana Simic
- Less than a month ago, the Minister of police Nebojsa Stefanovic said that police work when handling the cases of domestic violence is made difficult because victims don’t report the violence, or they withdraw the charges. The message is clear – victims are to blame for preventing the police from doing their job. The minister forgot about all the cases when the victims did report the violence, but the police failed to react accordingly and the media missed an opportunity to pressure the institutions which failed to protect the victims. ↑