FEMFACTS
18 Dec 2018

A man kills his children, yet his wife is blamed

A 37-year-old Bosnian man murdered his three children and then committed suicide. While searching for his motives for such a crime, some media pointed their fingers at his wife.

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
A man kills his children, yet his wife is blamed - NewsMavens
The Bihac home where the murder took place, YouTube

The event took place on December 13, 2018 in the city of Bihać in the northwestern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After identifying the dead bodies, police notified the public that Admir Sović from Cazin in Bosnia and Herzegovina killed his three children and then hung himself in the family house in Bihać. The children were two, five and seven years old. The day of their burial (December 16) was declared a day of mourning in the Una Sana Canton, one of the administrative regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, governed from the city of Bihać.

WHAT IS THE CLAIM?

Bosnian media promptly reported about the case. Popular Bosnian daily newspaper Dnevni avaz was among the first outlets whose reporters started following the story. In the initial report published by Dnevni avaz on the day of the murder (December 13), this was the first information shared about the crime:

According to the first unofficial information, the man killed his three children and then hung himself. We also learned that his wife left him some 20 days ago, which is assumed to be the motive for this bloody crime.

This claim was later supported by more detailed reports about the Sović family and their background published by Dnevni avaz in the following days. It was used by other media outlets as well.

The next day, Dnevni avaz expanded the story through a series of articles about the case, including the one about the nervous breakdown of Leila Sović, the murderer’s wife and the mother of the murdered children, who ended up in a hospital after she found out about the event. In another one, Dnevni avaz reported that Sović’s neighbours claimed he was a “caring father” because “he has been taking his children to and from kindergarten every day.”

A headline from Dnevni avaz: "Neighbours in shock: Admir was a caring father, we cannot believe he could have done it" (screenshot of Dnevni avaz website)

The statement that his wife had left him was repeated once again:

As we have found out off the record, he had begged her to come back through their joint contacts. But she didn’t want to and that led to this terrible tragedy.

The storm of negative comments and hate speech against the wife and the mother followed on the Facebook page of Dnevni avaz. Many of them argued that she is to be blamed for the crime, that it is entirely her fault and that her behaviour led to the tragedy. Some were openly misogynist.

Screenshots of comments on Facebook:

Translations of comments:

“He should have killed himself and the whore, children were not guilty”;

“What a whore can force a man to do…you flip and become a monster in a second”;

“Denis Medina, you are right, he should have killed the whore but not himself so that he can tell his kids when he goes out of the jail why did he do it”;

“What a woman can do, no one can. Turn a caring man into a killer, a good man into a bum. They aren’t all the same, but most have the devil inside them!”

Dnevni avaz published another article on the same day (December 14) portraying the murderer’s love for his children, which he has been expressing “through posting the photos of his children on his Facebook profile and writing affectionate posts about them.” In the last part of the report, the reporter stated that Sović had a very hard time accepting the fact that his wife had left him and that he had been mentioning his plans on killing his children and himself to his friends.

Other popular mainstream media outlets, such as Oslobođenje and Nezavisne novine have repeated the similar claim that the crime could have been a desperate move of an abandoned husband.

WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

Responding to hate speech against Sović’s wife Leila on social media (who was repeatedly being labelled a whore and as the culprit for the death of her children) Leila’s sister wrote an “open letter” to the public trying to present the other side of the story. She said that the reasons why her sister had to stay away from home were related to financial struggles that they as a family had, which Leila has been trying to solve by educating herself and looking for different types of work.

Leila was also a victim of domestic violence, which the police knew about, according to her sister’s letter and Dnevni avaz. The fact that Sović was violent towards his wife was only briefly mentioned in the coverage of Dnevni avaz and other outlets, even when it was confirmed by the police.

The argument of the “murderer being a caring father,” which was allegedly supported by interviewed neighbours of the family (who saw him taking children to kindergarten, as stated above), is in contradiction with the facts -- also published by Dnevni avaz -- that the Sović family only recently moved to Bihać from Cazin and that their new neighbours actually didn’t know them very well. The names of neighbours were not written in any of the many reports of Dnevni avaz about the case.

Unfaithful wife, jealousy, financial difficulties and a wish for revenge were all possible triggers for Sović’s misdoing, according to Bosnian media. But there was no mention of his mental health. By incorporating positive characteristics to the depiction of the murderer (such as his love for his children), his responsibility for the crime was alleviated and blame cast on to his wife Leila.

Interestingly, a commentary by journalist Almasa Hadžić, published by Dnevni avaz on December 15, condemned the storm of negative comments about Leila, which was primarily caused and stimulated by the biased reporting of the daily she writes for. In her commentary, Hadžić questioned the mental stability of the murderer.

The tragic case was covered in a highly sensationalist way, without any consideration of how the woman, who had just lost all of her three children, might feel and how public discussions of her private life might affect her, especially since she has just been through a nervous breakdown, which Dnevni avaz also covered in detail.

CONCLUSION

The information that was used in the reports were intentionally misinterpreted or simply neglected, such as the proven history of domestic violence in the relationship. The facts were thus presented in a misleading way, which is why we rate them as manipulation of facts. The disregard of such an important aspect to the story as violence against women and the demonization of the woman is detrimental for public understanding of family violence in Bosnian society. It further supports the widely spread belief that victims are to be blamed for the violence they suffer and are responsible for whatever comes out of it.

This is also an example of biased reporting, since the reporting demonstrated a continuously positive bias towards the murderer and negative bias towards the wife, who became a victim of hate speech on social media due to irresponsible coverage of the case by the reporters of Dnevni avaz.

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

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