The consequences of the irresponsible treatment of news items concerning intimate partner violence

News Coverage of Intimate Partner Homicides in New York City (2013-16)The mayor of the city of New York’s office has recently published a study on the treatment of intimate homicides carried out by a partner in news items published in the press between 2013 and 2016 (442 articles published in the media). The study points out that superficial and irresponsible information about violence perpetrated by the partner re-victimises the persons who have suffered and read the news. In addition, such treatment can serve to perpetuate cycles of abuse. More specifically, the report stresses the sensationalist perspective linked to particularly extreme situations, such as the murder of women by their partners or ex-partners, meaning femicides.

The study News Coverage of Intimate Partner Homicides in New York City (2013-16)”, written by Sandhya Kajeepeta, Kara Noesner and Edward Hill, mainly stresses the following:

  • Only ten of the 442 articles (2.3%) which covered intimate partner homicides that took place in New York during the period 2013-2016, had referred to the expertise of a lawyer with experience of this type of homicides.
  • Only 15% of the articles used specific terms like “domestic violence”, “intimate partner violence” or “domestic abuse”, and less than 8% of the articles describe the homicide as intimate by relating it to the violence.
  • Less than 6% of the articles include the homicide within the broader context of the social problem involving intimate partner violence.
  • Only seven articles (1.6%) included information about services and resources for victims of this nature of violence.
  • The study also points out the different way of covering news items when the victims of the homicides are men and the perpetrators are women, rather than when the victims are women and the perpetrators are men, which are more common.

In our case, in 2004 the Association of Journalists of Catalonia and the Department for Women of Barcelona Council drew up some Recommendations for the Treatment of Male Violence for news and entertainment programmes in the media, based on a commission constituted for this purpose. In 2009, to complement Catalan law 5/2008, of 24 April, referring to the right of women to eradicate male violence which in its article 23 regulates the treatment of information, and, retrieving the work initiated in 2004, these recommendations were updated, via a new commission constituted by the entities which had already participated in the work group which the Area of Equality and Citizenship of the Barcelona Provincial Council, the Security Programme against Male Violence of the Department of the Interior and the Observatory of Women in the Media had already joined. The result was a document of recommendations for the treatment of male violence in the media, which establishes different lines to be borne in mind when dealing with a news item of this nature, stressing the importance of giving verified and contrasted information, and then to follow it up, while at all times respecting the dignity and intimacy of those affected and avoiding sensationalist and drama-related details of such news. You will find the document on this link: Recommendations. The treatment of male violence in the media. In this line of work, the Association of Women Journalists since 2006 has carried out an annual analysis of how the media treats information concerning male violence within the couple and how they apply these recommendations to their daily informative tasks. You can access their latest study Impact of the Recommendations concerning the treatment of male violence in the Media (2016) on their website.

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