Gender violence researchers Asa Elden and Berna Ekal have acknowledged the boost in media coverage of murders of women in the last decade in Turkey, but they say reports tend to focus on a few high-profile cases and ignore day-to-day violence. The harrowing story has headlined newspapers and dominated talk shows in Turkey since she disappeared last month.
But much like the reporting of other cases of gender-based violence, the coverage of the murder of the American tourist has been laden with sexism, namely victim blaming.
Her family says Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two, ventured to Istanbul on January 8 to practice a passion of hers, street photography.
While the murder of the young American tourist has garnered attention worldwide, the level of interest it has commanded in Turkey is noteworthy.
The National Turkish Police have deemed the investigation into Sierra’s murder, to which they assigned a special task force, their “highest priority,” and the press have been absorbed with every detail of the American tourist’s life.
Ilkkaracan, who was included in the 2011 list of 150 Women Who Shake the World, said the attention is “much more than any Turkish woman would receive”—a major problem in a country where 42 percent of women report experiencing physical or sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes.
Accounts of the Sierra murder investigation jumped forward from the proverbial 'third page' treatment of crimes against Turkish women, but the coverage is deeply flawed argues Alyson Neel, reporting from Istanbul.
It wasn’t long ago that violence against women went virtually unreported in Turkish media.
Women’s rights advocates always talk about the “third page”—because that’s where newspapers usually report such crimes, listed formulaically and lumped together with traffic accidents and miscellaneous offences.“Ten years ago, the media weren’t even talking about violence against women,” said prominent women’s rights advocate Pinar Ilkkaracan, who has been working on this issue for more than 20 years.But following pressure by women's rights organizations, “now there are news outlets that have their own campaigns protesting gender-based violence,” Ilkkaracan said.Turkey's Family Minister Fatma Sahin announced just last year her ministry was beginning to compile comprehensive, consistent data on such violence.In 2011, Turkish media increased the share of news stories related to women by 82 percent compared to the previous year, Turkey’s Media Monitoring Center (MTM) reported in 2012.Among the more than one million articles discussing women that year were 4,648 on women’s shelters, 3,953 on gender equality and 1,137 on murders of women.