Gender-based and domestic violence (GBDV) is an issue which finds it place in media headlines on a daily basis. A total of 7,475 articles on the topic were published by online news outlets over the course of a year (or about 20 articles per day on average). Nevertheless, the vast majority of stories fail to name the phenomenon with its correct term, while instead just describing the actual acts of violence. It could be argued that, while the topic is well-known to media, they rarely discuss its essence and the wider issue at hand.
This is reflected in the way as much as 43% of media coverage on GBDV trivializes an otherwise hugely important and serious problem. A significant portion of Bulgarian media, including some of the most popular outlets in the country, only cover stories if they are scandalous or eye- catching enough. What is more, they go into unnecessary details about the acts and often reveal details that could actually be harmful for victims.
In doing so, media employ a vocabulary that is very far from the appropriate for the situation, when addressing both victims and perpetrators, as well as the acts themselves – in an attempt to make them more ‘interesting’ for the wider public. However, what is perceived as interesting for readers is rarely in the public interest. In this particular case, it only serves to downgrade an important issue and dumb down people’s feelings and understanding for it by bombarding them with constant gruesome details. This could explain why physical and sexual violence are practically the only forms of GBDV recognized by media in the country.
Some political players and public figures in Bulgaria also serve to reinforce that view while simultaneously going as far as normalizing violence. In promoting ‘traditional values’ and suggesting women’s behaviour sometimes provokes sexual assault they send a completely inappropriate message and do so from the headlines of popular, sensationalist media.
Still, there are voices (albeit a minority) that try and analyse the issue and offer a glimpse at the bigger picture of GBDV in Bulgaria. On a positive note, this most often than not, includes the two major public TV channels in the country as well as a handful of other popular outlets. NGOs and psychological experts seem like the best spokespeople for the issue as they are the ones that contribute to higher-quality journalism on the topic.
Finally, GBDV seems to be prevalent in pretty much every region and major city in Bulgaria. Major national cases are discussed by media in every corner of the country, alongside smaller, local stories. Regional outlets are often the ones that are closest to local communities and, thus, offer an important insight into their problems and worries.
The same topic is monitored also in Norway by making a comparative analysis on the way media in the two countries approach one and the same problem. It is interesting to track whether Norwegian journalists use sensational or trivializing language like their Bulgarian colleagues, when covering cases of gender-based and domestic violence.
The articles were collected using Perceptica’s in-house media collection system via a search string that incorporated all mentions of GBDV in online news media based in Bulgaria. As the search string was designed to be inclusive and collect articles that mention GBDV which did not occur in the country or that are otherwise irrelevant, the media analysis team proceeded to filter out any such coverage.
Additionally, only articles coming from actual media outlets were considered. Items coming from so-called ‘aggregators’ – websites that simply re-publish the content from other sources, were excluded from the analysis.
This publication was created with the financial support of the Operator of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The sole responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the Intelday Foundation and under no circumstances can be taken this document to reflect the official opinion of the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism and the Operator of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria.