Belgrade, 10th December 2019 – The group “Journalists against Violence against Women” presented an analysis of media reports on violence against women spanning a period of six months, as well as specific guidelines for ethical reporting on violence against women, prepared by the female journalists engaged in the group’s work.

The analysis of media announcements, spanning the period from 1st January to 30th June 2019, showed that 70 per cent of media announcements on violence against women contained some elements of unethical reporting.

- It is, to a certain extent, a commonplace observation that the media most often report on such matters in a sensationalist manner, violating the Serbian Journalists’ Code and reporting primarily only after cases of violence against or murdering  women have already happened. This analysis confirms that observation, says Sanja Pavlović from the Autonomous Women’s Centre.

In one half of the announcements analysed, the identity of the victim and her family was revealed, whereas 45 per cent of them described the act(s) of violence, the victim and the perpetrator in a sensationalist and stereotypical manner, containing detailed descriptions of the act of violence or murder. Also, the very titles of 45 per cent of media announcements contain some of the three elements of unethical reporting referred to above. During the course of the period under analysis, the media wrote much more often about violence against women dealing with specific cases of it (79%), rather than dealing with the phenomenon of violence from an educational angle (21%).

The analysis encompasses all the announcements in the electronic and printed media, and also those published on Internet portals from the Ebart archive of media reporting which dealt with violence against women, violence in the family, sexual violence against women and girls, murders of women in a partnership and family context and perpetrators of violence against women.

The training sessions that we have held with journalists, male and female ones alike, in various local environments in Serbia, have shown that journalists, when reporting on violence against women, do not make mistakes due to malicious intent, but out of ignorance. I would like to point out that bad reporting on this issue is even worse than not reporting on it at all, was the message of Ana Manojlović, a reporter working for the Serbian Radio Television.

In order to contribute to improving the quality of reporting on violence against women, the group “Female Journalists against Violence against Women” has prepared guidelines for ethical reporting on this issue. The purpose of the guidelines is to resolve dilemmas with which journalists, male and female ones alike, are often faced, and also to avoid, or at least diminish the level of the traumatisation of women who have experienced violence, which occurs as a consequence of being exposed to the public.

- Knowing how little influence journalists in printed and on-line media have on the formulation of the title and the photos/additional material accompanying their texts, we have written special guidelines for editors. The guidelines intended for journalists provide a clear answer to the question of how violence against women should be reported on, but it is also important for editors to take care who they assign to report on this issue and to enable journalists to get additional education on the subject. The media also have an important role to play when it comes to pointing out the shortcomings and mistakes that exist within the system when they report on violence against women, said Jovana Gligorijević, deputy editor-in-chief of the weekly Vreme.

- The media are the key factor when it comes to shaping the views of the public on the phenomenon of violence. It is owing to the media and their reporting on violence against women that the public gets to know what kind of a problem it is, about its consequences, and also about the work of institutions. Reporting on closed cases of violence and related court decisions, for example, may have a preventive effect and may encourage victims to report cases of violence, is the opinion of Maja Branković Đundić, coordinator of the UNDP programme for fighting against violence against women.

The guidelines have been written so that they can be of use to all media: the printed, as well as the digital ones. They have been designed in keeping with the Serbian Journalists’ Code, which formed the basis for their preparation.

- We believe that, through such reporting, journalists observe their professional code of conduct and respect the dignity of the persons who they write about, and most important of all, do not endanger the safety of the survivors. By responsible reporting, we give support to women who have survived violence to get out of the vicious circle of violence, while encouraging society to adopt the attitude of zero tolerance of violent behaviour. Through inadequate or stereotyped reporting in the media, violence is normalised in the view of the public, is the message of the female journalists gathered within this group. 

“Journalists against Violence against Women” is a group made up of around thirty journalists from the national and local media in Serbia, who struggle against violence against women in an organised manner, publicly and clearly. The group advocates the view that, when reporting on violence against women, it should be treated as a social problem, that its causes should be pointed out, that each form of violence should be clearly condemned publicly, and that the perpetrators and institutions in charge of protection from violence should be called to account.

Journalists against Violence are striving to develop a network spanning the whole of Serbia that would contribute, through concerted activities in the media, to fighting against violence against women. The group has been founded with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Fond B92, within the framework of the project “An Integrated Response to Violence against Women and Girls in Serbia II”, which is being implemented by the UNDP and the Government of Serbia as partners, with the support of the  Government of Sweden.

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