LALIT has received the open letter to journalists below from the Muvman Liberasyon Fam. The organization has run an on-going campaign against violence against women, and this appeal to journalists and editing staff to avoid headlines of a misogynist nature when reporting on assault and murder of women.
Dear Journalists and other workers in the press, including radio/TV and on-line,
We write to you today to draw attention to what we consider an insidious role of the press in general in tolerating violence against women and in particular, constantly shifting the blame (perhaps unconsciously) from the perpetrator on to the woman victim.
This tolerating male violence and seeking to blame the victim is accomplished by, inter alia, the very words chosen by those in the Press in order to headline reports on such often tragic events.
We take the example of the two daily morning papers, Monday and Tuesday, 3rd and 4th February.
Tragically there has been another femicide.
Sujata Anatah has been assassinated in cold blood. Her body is found in the middle of the public road in Poste de Flacq in the middle of the day.
That is the news item.
But in the Press, there is such haste to give the accused man’s “justification”, there is such haste to put the dead woman in the box of the accused, that the headlines are as follows:
L’Express, Monday: “Un mari jaloux finit par tuer sa femme”. The jealousy excuse is actually placed before the murder. And he “finit” par tuer sa femme, so exasperated was he.
Le Defi, Monday: ”Sujata poignardée au cou par son epoux en pleine rue: Le mari a sa femme: ‘To pa ti bizin tromp mwa.’” Immediately, the dead woman is accused of treachery.
In case, a reader might think these were one-off faux pas:
Tuesday, L’Express: “Kriteshsingh Bunghooye était violent et jaloux”. The perpetrator’s justification again stated at headline item.
Tuesday, Le Defi: “Son epoux capturé dans un champ de canne: ‘Elle m’a provoqué.’” Again, immediate reference to the accused murderer’s justification, or rather a koze dekuyone when confronted with his act.
On the Monday, Le Defi has yet another title, which again offers justification from the outset: “Un policier ivre a son épouse: ‘Mo pou rey to figir’”. Here it is the alcohol to blame. Again, not the man.
Le Mauricien of 4 February has the following headline: “Mo ti bizin kas pou kas-yen”. This is a new justification for the man’s action.
These headlines are all just pure misogyny.
Imagine if other murders of the socially weak by the socially strong were justified this way. “Boss accused of murdering worker: “He was lazy.” Landlord assassinates tenant: “He was late with rent.” It would be gutter journalism to make titles out of these ludicrous explanations.
These types of details, like what a man accused of murdering his wife says, can be included at the end, perhaps, with a comment like, “In a desperate attempt at defence, the man claimed he was jealous”, or “The man accused has tried to feed weak excuses to journalists for his crime”, or whatever.
In conclusion, we note that the Press, while well-nigh blaming women for male crimes in routine headlines, from time to time, as if to wash its hands of guilt, becomes hysterical about all the violence against women. This kind of vacillation from everyday tolerance to occasional bursts of outrage is just not good enough. The struggle against a patriarchy, which constantly inflicts all manner of violence of women and girls as well as, often, on other men, needs to be constant and the violence must be exposed rationally for what it is: using male power in society in order to inflict destruction.
For your information, as part of our campaign against patriarchal violence, the Muvman Liberasyon Fam has kept a femicide register from the 1980s based mainly on Press reports.
MLF, 4 Feb 2020.