Femicide 2017

Something snapped in me...

"Stories don’t always end with death, but they often do," said the art historian John Berger.

What is the border between harmfulness and benefits, information and voyeurism, seeking for profit and responsibility, which each report of violence against women carries with it? How can you (or must) report and capture this problem without diminishing the dignity of the victim (or the safety of the survivors), nor justifying the abuser. How much has our level of tolerance on violence lowered us to make this situation unbearable?

This project deals with the topic of violence against women through tabloid reporting in Serbia. As a basic material for analysis I took a press clipping about violence against women, that is, thousands of emails and PDFs containing all the articles published on this subject in the past 3 years.

In Serbia, the number of women killed in a partnership context exceeds 50% of all murders. Every year the country counts between 30 and 45 cases on 7 million citizens. These statistics are not recorded by the police officials but by women organizations following the press. Murders of women are found on the front pages of daily tabloids. Sometimes the titles suggest that the victim is somehow guilty and the murderer did “what he had to do”.

In 2016 the folk singer Jelena Marjanovic was found mysteriously murdered in Belgrade. The case is still not resolved. We witnessed one of the most brutal media hunt as the woman was on the front pages of all the most popular tabloids for one year and the half. Having nothing new to report, the speculation started and some journalists camped in front of her house, followed her husband and his family. One TV even put him in a reality show program just to perform live his arrest. Jelena’s face was also used every time when there were difficult political games going on to distract the attention of the public. Two times at the eve of national elections it was promised that the case would be solved. Reading the press clipping, I found out that only in the first month after her death, she appeared in the printed media headlines more than 500 times.

In the past 20 years many female organizations managed to organize SOS phone lines for the victims, to change the laws, to build safe houses. They are still fighting to make the situation better, but unfortunately the number of victims is not falling down. Recent researches show that these brutal reporting does not encourage the victims of domestic violence to report to the police, but instead discourage them to search for protection.

Marija Jankovic