By Carlota Núñez Strutt, trainee in the European Parliament.
“The medium is the message” Marshall McLuhan.
The explicit portrayal of a rape case in San Fermín (Spanish festivity) by the principal Spanish media this week does not empower the victim. There is a journalistic responsibility to inform, but there is also a journalistic ethic to inform by respecting rights and social justice.
National press and national television spent a week describing the physical aspects of the San Fermín assault in explicit detail. Little information was given about the perpetrators of the crime, or the criminal sanctions the abusers could face. Furthermore, images of other women being assaulted in public were used in several papers to highlight this story.
News that portrays abuse in an explicit and routinely way in which it normalizes violence, focusing the story on the victim and never the abusers and their criminal sentences. News that, at the very least, is sensationalist and trivializes terrible crimes that are not isolated acts: they are part of a structure of systematic social oppression. Such a banal way of treating this information is more than a lack of respect to to the privacy and dignity of the victim: it is, for the potential abuser, rapist and criminal, an incentive.
It’s all about the clickbait. It’s all about selling. Because the reader clicks on videos of decapitations, war images, sexual abuse… motivated by both curiosity and disgust. But when we treat the information of abuse from a journalistic viewpoint it is not a matter of numbers or views to our newspaper. There is a responsibility and a journalistic ethic to which many of the most renowned newspapers are failing. Because the medium is the message, the Fourth Estate, and the media constructs society.
In Spain we already fought so that violence against women, which was called “a passionate crime” during Franco’s dictatorship, was referred to as what it is: a form of terrorism against women. Day by day we fight against the discrimination in language, as according to Linguist Wittgenstein “reality is shaped through language”. The way in which the press treats news is more than the news itself, it is the role and the power such news has in society. I want a journalism that builds bridges to fight inequality, not walls. I want journalism to empower women and not abusers.