Not a Family Drama: Reporting on Femicide




Gender Equality, Human Rights and Migration

By Sonja Peteranderl

Femicide – the killing of a woman because she is a woman – is a global problem. On average, more than five women or girls are killed by their partners or other family members every hour worldwide, according to the United Nations. In Germany, a woman is murdered by her partner or an ex-partner every three days. A group of investigative journalists, femicide survivors and experts on gender-based violence has now published a guide for German media and journalists to help them improve the way they cover the issue of femicide.

The media guide explains in detail how journalists can report more appropriately and ethically on issues relating to femicide and gender-based violence. It also offers guidelines for interviewing survivors and their families. In addition, it urges the media to analyse gender-based violence against and femicides of all women, including non-white women and migrants – and not to continue focusing their attention on intensive, disproportionate coverage of cases in which young white girls or middle-class women go missing or are killed (known as Missing White Woman Syndrome).

The scale of gender-based violence is immense, yet journalists and editors often struggle to find the right approach to this issue. Classifying femicides as ‘family tragedies’ or driven by ‘jealousy’ trivialises violence against women and frames femicides as isolated incidents. Instead, the media should consistently shed light on the context of gender-based violence and femicides, expose structural problems and analyse the role of actors such as the state, police, the judiciary, civil society and the media in preventing and addressing femicides – not only in the aftermath of particularly brutal murders or once a year on Women’s Day.


About the Author:

Sonja Peteranderl reports on organized crime, (digital) violence and tech trends – for example for the SWR investigative format Vollbild. She is founder of the think tank BuzzingCities Lab, which researches the impact of digitalization on security, organized crime and urban violence worldwide. As an Algorithmic Accountability Reporting Fellow at AlgorithmWatch, she is currently investigating AI for policing and prisons in Europe.

Published on July 20, 2023.

Image Credit: journalist

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