FEMFACTS
24 May 2019

How dare you get slapped at your daughter’s wedding?

A woman was hit by her estranged husband at their daughter’s wedding ceremony. After he was arrested by the police, the press attacked her for “ruining her daughter’s wedding”.

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A few weeks ago, several Balkan media outlets reported on an incident involving Zoran Marunček, the president of the local branch of association of disabled war veterans (HVIDRA) in Vinkovci (Croatia). Marunček hit his wife during their daughter’s wedding ceremony, the police were called by one of the guests and he was taken away and held in custody until he sobered up.

A journalist who first reported on the case, Danijela Mikola, decided that it was a good idea to frame her reporting as a defense of the perpetrator, citing his friends and wartime comrades who were present at the wedding to support this perspective. Her initial article then set the tone for all the media reports that followed.

WHAT’S THE CLAIM?

An article titled “Mayhem at the wedding: He slapped his wife, and his daughter walked alone to the altar” was published on the Croatian new portal 24sata.hr on April 29. Within hours, it appeared on a number of other media in Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia with similar headlines:

Chaos at the wedding: Drunk, he hit his wife, friends say he never drinks and is not aggressive

Zoran arrested at his daughter’s wedding day: Drunk, he slapped his wife and spent the night behind bars instead of celebrating

Drama at the wedding: Zoran hit his wife, the bride stood alone at the altar  

After a brief summary of the incident, following up on a police statement that they don’t know whether the woman “sought medical assistance after being struck by her husband”, the author continued:

But the strike was actually just a slap in the face which prompted the ticked off wife to raise a great fuss, not caring for her daughter's wedding celebration - family friends have said.

We further read that Marunček and his wife have long been separated and the journalist continues to report by quoting several statements of his friends and other wedding guests.

We’re shocked by this because Zoran is absolutely never aggressive or violent. It’s the exact opposite. (...) He never drinks. He probably let himself vent a bit because it was his daughter’s wedding, so it overtook him. Anyhow, it’s awful that his daughter had to walk to the altar without her father and that eventually her father wasn’t at the reception, but instead ended up behind bars because of something this stupid.

(...)

All the guests were embittered, because Zoran is a good father, who also took care of his children - Zoran’s comrades said, some of whom attended the wedding.

The article concludes with the report from the local hospital, which states that they did not treat this victim of domestic violence, and finishes by saying that after the police report is processed, they will know if the perpetrator will be prosecuted.

Ekskluzivno, Vijesti, Direktno, Dnevnik, Dnevno, Večernji list, Espreso, Telegraf, and Slovenske novice were just some of the media who republished the article from “24 sata”. Most of them made no changes in the text.

WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

Several media in Croatia have recently signed the “Media code for professional and sensitized reporting on violence against women and femicide”, published by the Ombudswoman for Gender Equality in Croatia. Among them were 4 sata and Večernji list.

Some of the guidelines for reporting are:

Protect the identity of the victim;

Don’t publish speculations by neighbors, acquaintances, family members;

Point out that violence is always perpetrator’s fault, and don’t suggest that it is the victim’s fault;

Refer to legal provisions and relevant statistics;

Contact competent interviewers who have experience of working with victims, or dealing with issues of violence against women;

Do not show violence in a fun, humorous way, and do not show sympathy for the perpetrator;

Publish analytical texts on gender-based violence and ways of preventing and combating violence.

24 sata -- and many others -- clearly failed to follow any of the Media Code guidelines. Moreover, they’ve successfully managed to write about domestic violence by breaking all the rules on reporting about the subject.

They all but uncovered the victim’s identity, used statements of perpetrator’s friends and family to banalize the violence (calling it just “a slap” as opposed to an actual “strike”), suggested it was the victim’s fault, blamed alcohol for the violence and, finally, reprimanded the victim -- not the perpetrator -- for ruining the wedding by “making a fuss” after she was hit by her former partner.

After the Facebook page “Our daily sexism” pointed out how “24 sata” broke all the reporting guidelines they pledged to uphold, they changed the headline of the article, which now states: “Drunk father of the bride slapped his wife and was arrested by the police.” They also removed the part of the article which diminishes the  violence by calling her being hit just a “slap”.

CONCLUSION

This article trivializes and downplays the detrimental effects of gender-based violence against women. The sensationalist headlines also use violence as clickbait. The text of the article reads as a defense of the perpetrator, excusing his actions and blaming the victim, amounting to extremely biased reporting.

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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

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