Serbian Pride: Media Is Still Failing to Educate Public on LGBTQ+ Rights

30 September 2019

Country: Serbia

By: Ivana Jovanovic

Serbian_Pride_Parade_11It is no secret that the way the media reports an event like LGBTQ+ Pride inevitably impacts how citizens interpret it. Language that journalists use, context they provide and what they choose to focus on can make the difference between educating someone on LGBTQ+ rights, and further entrenching stereotypes.

In Serbia, it is a slow, but evolving process. Five years ago, the 2014 Pride Parade was mostly reported as a security issue—with a strong emphasis on how much policing the parade would cost, a detail that could give homophobes ammunition to be against the parade. However, five years later most of the reporting was about logistical issues—which streets would be closed, and which route participants should walk. It is clear that celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride is now a fact of life.However, both then and now, there has been little reporting about the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, and why “Pride Parades” are important in the first place. LGBTQ + citizens, activists and their messages are being sidelined—particularly when it comes to raising awareness about gender, and sexuality-based hate crimes. If the challenges of the everyday life for the LGBT Q+ community are not discussed, there is little hope to further understanding, and improve tolerance with the general population.

According to the research by the Novi Sad School of Journalism in 2018, vulnerable groups are often talked about by someone other than themselves; the LGBTQ + community, religious minorities and unemployed are the most under-represented groups in the media.  There are fewer women in journalism than men, meaning that within coverage of LGBTQ+ communities, lesbians are far less represented than gay men. This is ironic, given that Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic is a lesbian—a fact that the media has highlighted to make the case for Serbia joining the European Union, but not for advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. .

When the media covered how much the Pride Parade costs to police in 2014, no one mentioned that it is not the LGBTQ+ activists, but the right wing counter-protestors who are creating the demand for increased policing. This manner of reporting creates the image that the police are protecting citizens from those who are walking, not from the possibility of rightwing violence.

This year’s Pride is entitled “I don’t give up” (“Ne odričem se”) and is dedicated to all parents who don’t give up their children. However, most of the media have neglected this context, again failing in their educational role. As a result, readers speculate about the title about “true” meaning on social media websites, leading to rumors and misinformation. This could be avoided if journalists had simply asked organizers, and allowed them to broadcast their message, and speak for themselves.

As a result of this (lack of) reporting, ill-informed readers think that LGTBQ+ Pride is about “special rights.”The fact that members of the LGBT + population are unable to hold hands while walking down the street, kissing or getting married is overlooked; that they have been denied basic human rights is neglected.

Many of these views can be found in comments on social media and in online portals. While journalists are obliged to moderate these spaces for hate speech, many have failed to do so, or not done it professionally.

It is clear from this example that those who are discriminated in society are also discriminated in the media. Instead of indulging readers in reinforcing their beliefs, journalists and media-makers should fulfill their educational role and bring the concerns and needs of all minority groups, including the LGBT + community, to educate and enlighten citizens. Only then, will the media be able to shift public opinion.