FEMFACTS
11 Apr 2019

When a selfie is a crime

A Bosnian teacher was posting selfies on her social media accounts -- like millions of people -- then one day a local newspaper decided to publicly shame her.

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
When a selfie is a crime - NewsMavens
Man reading Newspaper, PixaBay

Berina Fatić is a Bosnian language teacher from Vareš, a small town situated around 50 km north of the capital of Sarajevo. She is an active user of Facebook and Instagram, where she typically posts photos, quotes from books, and comments on friends’ posts.

On April 9, the influential Bosnian daily newspaper Dnevni avaz published an article about Fatić titled "A teacher from Vareš poses naked in the classroom" and instantly turned her into a target for public shaming. The article was published in the print edition of Dnevni avaz and on its website.

WHAT IS THE CLAIM?

The article, which claimed that the teacher took nude photos of herself -- and thus allegedly shocked her fellow citizens -- was published under this headline:

SHOCKING: Locals disgusted by provocative photos

Teacher from Vareš poses naked in classroom

She doesn’t hesitate to publish provocative photos of herself

Among the many allegations about the teacher’s behavior (that she had been taking provocative photos in school, that she doesn’t hesitate to use school for her photo sessions, etc.), the article emphasized that the alleged "nude photos" of her circulating on the internet had shocked and disgusted the locals and made the parents of her students concerned. Some of the paragraphs said: 

"As the locals tell us, despite the fact that Fatić is married, has a child who is a minor, and also works in a responsible position, this does not prevent her from taking photos of herself without clothes or in provocative clothing combinations.

She allegedly sent her photographs to a young man, who later published them on Facebook, Viber, Instagram, and other social networks. That’s how the photos became public and that's a real disgrace -- the locals claim."

They added that it is not known whether the professor exchanged such photographs with her students, and whether the photos also reached her students through the many ​​groups on the internet where they were published.

The article also included photos of Fatić to illustrate her alleged lack of morals.

The paragraph below the photo gallery reads: “The public in Vareš is horrified by the provocative photos that a Bosnian language teacher in ‘Nordbat 2’ High School Berina Fatić has been posting on social networks for quite some time.”(screenshot of part of Dnevni avaz article)

The story was immediately picked up by other Bosnian and regional outlets, with some of the most striking headlines as follows:

ATTRACTIVE AND MARRIED TEACHER from Vareš was sending revealing photos to a young man: When you see her pictures on social networks, YOU'LL FEEL UNWELL! (Bosnian portal Novi.ba)

Teacher from BiH took nude photos in classroom: Then, she tightened her breasts and took a pistol and a gun   (Serbian portal Telegraf.rs)

TOOK PHOTOS OF HERSELF IN THE CLASSROOM: Naked teacher from BiH stirred chaos on social networks (Croatian portal Direktno.hr)

The region is shaking, the public is horrified! Curvy teacher sent nude photos to a student (Slovenian portal Škandal24)

All portals incorporated photos of Fatić, which were taken from her social media profiles, which were, at that time, still publicly accessible.

WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

While the initial report kept repeating that Fatić was taking naked photos of herself in the classroom, there’s not a single piece of evidence confirming this. The print edition of Dnevni Avaz published a photo of Fatić taking a naked selfie in a bedroom, with her arms covering her breasts. In an interview for Dnevni Avaz published on April 10, Fatić said she made the photo for her husband and that the photo was stolen.

The article included a photo gallery consisting of seven supposedly controversial photos of Fatić (taken from her social media profiles), none of them nude. The other qualifier used by the reporter -- that her photos are “provocative” -- is a matter of subjective perception and could vary greatly from person to person.

The article contains no named sources. Throughout the article, the reporter (credited as “D. Pašalić”) only referred to collectives of ”the locals” or “citizens of Vareš” and “worried parents” as sources. The reporter claimed that he/she tried to contact Fatić and the headteacher but had no success. According to Dnevni avaz, Fatić hasn’t replied to Avaz’s messages “even though she is obviously obsessed with social media and is constantly using them.

On the same day the article was published (April 9), Fatić wrote a post on her Facebook profile saying she will pursue legal action against the newspaper.

“[They are saying that] I took nude photos in the school? Is there any literate and honest journalist in former Yugoslavia -- or is the circulation [of newspapers] what matters most?” Fatić wrote in another post sharing a link to a Croatian web portal, one of many that reported she took photos of her naked herself in school.

NewsMavens found no evidence that teacher’s nude photos were circulated on social media nor as Dnevni avaz claimed was there any “scandal” in Vareš. It seems, in fact, that Dnevni avaz itself fabricated the “scandal” to discredit Fatić and boost readership.

Avaz’s article contained no sources and was actually claiming unverified gossips “by the locals” as a source. But that didn’t stop numerous web portals from taking it on and claiming that Fatić had actually sent her nude photos to an unidentified “young man” and even to her students.  

Some Facebook users, identifying themselves as parents of Fatić’s students, wrote messages of encouragement and support to her, saying she is a respected teacher. The photos and posts were publicly accessible on her Facebook profile until the evening of April 9, when most of her posts were locked.  Her Instagram page has been unavailable since April 9.

The article where it all started was removed from the website of Dnevni Avaz on the afternoon of April 9. NewsMavens accessed and saved the article while it was still online. The entire content of the article is still available on the news aggregate site "World News", which picked it up from Dnevni avaz on the day it was published. Numerous other articles published by other local and regional media -- which referred to the Dnevni avaz story -- are still available online. If you Google Fatić’s name, you will get plenty of results including her photos and “scandal” “naked teacher”, and “nude photos” as keywords. Those will remain on the internet forever.

CONCLUSION

Dnevni Avaz is widely known for its sensationalist and often sexist reporting, and its portrayal of women through sexual objectification. So even if this clickbait article didn’t come a surprise, it is a worrying reminder of how easily reporters can destroy someone’s reputation -- especially if it’s a woman -- without any consequences to the reporters or their editors.

Other local and regional media used elements of Dnevni avaz’s article without any verification,  whilst adding on complementary disinformation and manipulation of facts to make the story even more clickable and more shareable.

WITH FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM:
SUPPORTED BY:

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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