How journalists write about femicide and why it can provoke new crimes

Country/area: Russia

Organisation: 7×7 – Horizontal Russia

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 1/11/2011

Credit: Leyla Eminova (Azerbaijan), Natalia Donskova (Russia), Maya Sagym (Kazakhstan), Dada Lindell (Russia), Alisa Bulatova

Biography: Leila Eminova, Baku, Azerbaijan Student of Baku State University,Journalist, Winner of the German DAAD Scholarship Program
Alisa Bulatova, Petrozavodsk, Russia Artist, designer. Education – Art and Graphics Department of Petrozavodsk Pedagogical College;
Natalia Donskova, Volgodonsk, jounalist in project “Equals”. Writes on socially significant topics
Dada Lindell, Moscow, Russia Data journalist, mentor. Has worked with RBC (Russia), OCCRP, covering corruption, healthcare, economics and business.
Maya Sagym, Astana (Nur-Sultan). She worked on creating communities of neighbors in the projects “Yard on Demand” and “Korshiler” by artist Aigerim Ospan.

Project description:

An independent group of researchers from Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan analyzed about 20 thousand texts in the media about the murder of women by men, published in Russian over the past 2 years. The researchers came to the conclusion that the Russian-language media almost do not show the victim from a positive or even neutral side, do not note the gender nature of the problem. The media broadcast to men examples of women being murdered, but they do not assess these crimes negatively.

Impact reached:

Since the topic is related to systemic changes, it is difficult to assess the impact immediately after publication. This is a unique study, the first in the Russian-speaking media space. When the conditions are right for change, our research will provide the basis for change in media work and crime prevention against women and girls. Also, based on the results of the publication, the researchers plan to send appeals to the Investigative Committee and the Police with a request to change the language of publications on the official websites of the Police and the Investigative Committee. The main goal of the project is to draw attention to the problem, to attract media and journalists to the work. This was because the authors conducted polls and interviews with journalists during the preparation of the study. When the publication came out, researchers shared the project with reporters and received feedback. There were good reviews from Violence.net, the authors spoke on the Dozhd TV channel, and the industrial publication sila.media also wrote about us https://sdelano.media/femicid/ Also, fellow researchers decided to conduct similar studies of the language of the media, we received requests from teams for help (for example, the authors of the publication consulted with an international team that deals with the topic of sexual violence against children in the media, as well as with a researcher on the topic of stigmatization of mental illness, etc.). The team believes that our methodology has helped other researchers explore other important social issues.

Techniques/technologies used:

For the analysis, the researchers chose a time period from the beginning of 2019 to the beginning of October 2021. With the help of the Integrum library, which has an extensive collection of Russian-language media archives published in Russia and abroad, the researchers downloaded 20,000 texts. To search for them, they used certain phrases that can be found in texts about femicidal crimes, such as “killed a woman”, “hacked his wife,” etc. The sample was incomplete, since much more similar texts were written in Russian, including number in the media organized on social networks (for example, in news groups on the social network “VKontakte”), which are not indexed by Integrum. Most of the uploaded texts – over 80% – turned out to be short news messages. To analyze texts, highlight the essence and the most frequently occurring words, the authors used the nltk library intended for the analysis of natural languages. She made it possible to understand which words are more often synonymous in texts about femicide. For example, the word “woman” is most often synonymous with the word “victim”, and “man” is most often synonymous with the words “murderer” or “cohabitant”, “husband”. The researchers conducted a survey among Russian and foreign journalists writing in Russian through thematic communities on social networks and personal contacts with media editors. Also, the researchers used the method of content analysis of texts based on the methodology of researchers from Canada. https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/abhilash.kantamneni/viz/OntarioFemicideMediaAnalysis2020/Story1

What was the hardest part of this project?

This is a unique study, the first in the Russian-language Internet. The authors talk about a systemic problem, they involve different parties, and journalists, and a psychologist, and a language expert. Also, as a result of the research, the team offers options for solving and improving the situation.

What can others learn from this project?

In the study, the methodology was highlighted and detailed, and the team is ready to share all the best practices. Also, other journalists can find out what sources can help in obtaining journalistic texts, how the language of the media can be analyzed, how interviews with journalists can help in this, what experts can be involved in researching such topics. Also, the publication can help to learn more about what femicide is and what are its causes and factors that affect the murders of women and girls.

Project links: