Friday, December 07, 2007

What IS the Media's Role Regarding Domestic Violence Reporting?

This is one of the questions being discussed at the fourth international conference in Turkey this week. You may be surprised it is being spearheaded by a newspaper group. They want to discuss whether or not (and I quote here) “The Turkish media is dominated by close-minded men who can't realize the gravity of domestic violence and thus fail to stand up to it. Whether the ‘male-domination’ paradigm is being replaced by more open minds and concerned manner of news making will also be discussed.”

People are always amazed when I tell them that one of our CAEPV member companies is the Hurriyet newspaper group in Turkey. These conferences on domestic violence have been held annually since 2004, when Hürriyet launched its "No to Domestic Violence" (Aile İçi Şiddete Son) campaign. With an impressive logo of an eye in tears, the project aimed at both helping women who are persecuted by their husbands, and raising consciousness on this serious problem, which has been one of the gravest yet rarely spoken maladies in Turkish society. I was part of this conference in 2006, and we talked with businesses in Turkey about how to start their own workplace programs, and to start a “Corporate Alliance” in Turkey.

Temuçin Tüzecan, the communications director of Hürriyet has big plans – he wants to bring 25 of the largest companies in Turkey on board!

Hurriyet has established a 24/7 call center, which is an emergency line for victims of domestic violence. Just a few weeks ago the call center saved the life of an 18-year old wife in Ağrı, who was almost freezing to death while hiding in a barn, Tüzecan said. "She was escaping her family-in-law," he said. "They, for some bizarre reason, had been infuriated with her and had decided to punish her."

The "End to Domestic Violence" campaign also focuses on the root causes of this problem, and this year's conference topic, the media, is right on target. "The language that the media uses while reporting such incidents is crucial," Tüzecan said. In the past there used to be rhetoric in the Turkish media, which did not regard the problem seriously enough. It rather sometimes used a tone that treated domestic violence as if it were a normal fact of life, even a funny one. This has changed to a great extent, Tüzecan said. Campaigns like that of Hürriyet have raised consciousness. Moreover, “there is now a younger generation of editors and reporters who don't think within the old machoistic ways,” he said.

I think to myself – how much different is that than here in the US? Those of you following the Stacy Peterson case may be dismayed (and rightly so) by the lack of emphasis in the media on the issues surrounding domestic violence. CAEPV Board Member Anne Glauber wrote a thoughtful piece in Women’s eNews about her personal experience trying to engage the national media.

However – I DO want to congratulate Bill Cameron and WLS News/Talk Radio 890 AM in Chicago for taking time to actually devote a show to the issues surrounding domestic violence that were stirred up as a result of this situation. If you want to listen to the podcast featuring Cook County State’s Attorney Deputy Chief Anita Alvarez and myself, click here for the link.

So – we all have a long way to go on this issue. I look forward to the day that there are more media outlets like WLS Radio in Chicago taking this issue seriously, and more companies like Hurriyet that are looking at the role they have externally and internally in addressing the issue.

As always, for anyone who is interested, our website at has lots of great resources to help.

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