Serbian Daily Politika Accused of Misogyny

Published: 21 July 2017

Country: Serbia

PolitikaTwo women have been killed by their partners in the premises of the Serbian Social Welfare Centre. The brutality of these murders shocked the Serbian public, especially because these women were killed in an institution which supposedly offered a safe environment for victims of domestic violence. Most of the media in Serbia have been reporting on this incident for several days. However, only a few media outlets questioned the failure of Serbian society and its social services in protecting victims of domestic violence, most of whom are women.

Following this tragic event, one of the most prominent Serbian newspapers, Politika, which advertises itself as ‘the oldest newspaper in the Balkans’, published a fake interview with a fake expert relativising violence against women.In the article, which has been since withdrawn from Politika’s website, the author claimed that ’aggressive feminists have hijacked the occasion for their own political agenda’. It also stated that mostly mothers and women are guilty of murdering new-born babies. The justification of domestic violence and crimes against women is already in collision with ethical standards of professional reporting. Another problem occurred when it was exposed that the author of the article in question, apparently a neuropsychiatrist, does not even exist. The photo used to illustrate ‘his article’ is a photo of a German actor.

Politika also published an article in which its regular columnist argued that the killing of one mother and her child might never happened if she had allowed the father (with a history of abusive behaviour) to visit their child, as ruled by the Court.

Journalist and member of the Serbian Press Council, Tamara Skrozza, says that a decent newspaper would never publish an article like the one found in Politika. Skrozza believes that this Serbian daily has been on the verge of breaching professional standards for some time. It is unclear whether Politika has used the indentity of an alleged expert to promote its own views on domestic violence or if the editors failed to check the sources of these articles. Arguing against Politika’s discriminatory language and generalisations, Skrozza wrote for the Cenzolovka website that ‘professional newspapers would never use a non-existent expert to promote hatred against women’.

The Media Diversity Institute (MDI) wrote about the role of the media in educating citizens and shaping their views on domestic violence. Snjezana Milivojevic, professor at the University of Belgrade, thinks that sensationalist reporting on cases of gender based violence is just a manifestation of the overall subordinate position of women in Serbian society and lack of professionalism in most Serbian newsrooms.

In an interview with MDI, Milivojevic said that patriarchal domestic relations and disrespectful attitudes towards women are reflected in the media and its coverage. ‘Women are very often excluded from serious topics and debates. They are not considered to be a source of information, even in women-related issues. Experts that media are talking to are very often men,’ said Milivojevic.

Global Media Monitoring Project 2015 for Serbia showed that only 8% of news in all thematic areas is about women, while gender equality is an even more marginalised topic featured in only 3% of news. Reporting is not gender sensitive and less than 1% of reports challenge gender stereotypes.