"Pervert Romanis" and "underage Gypsies". How the mass media failed at assessing the crime in Kryvyi

Feb. 6, 2024

In Kryvyi Rih City, three teenagers aged 13 to 15 raped a woman. Not just the city where the crime was committed but the entire Ukraine was shaken by the news. That, however, was not the end of the story…

"In Kryvyi Rih City, three teenagers aged 13 to 15 raped a woman."

That was supposed to be the headline, had the journalists been sticking to standards. But the clickbait turned out to be a more attractive option. And so the ethnic component, emotionally coloured vocabulary, and subjective opinion of the authors of the articles interfered with the matter.

Regional and national mass media did not forget to stress that the crime was linked to "Romas", "Gypsies" and so on. That they were "scumbags" and "perverts". To crown it all, they also published photos of the suspects with unblurred faces.

Why is this wrong?

First and foremost, what was committed was rape—a grave, horrendous crime. And anyone and everyone implicated should be held liable under law.

But crimes are committed by specific people and not by ethnic groups or religious communities. Next. A journalist should remain unbiased. The reader shall come up with his or her own expressive impression; mere facts will suffice to that end.

Faces of suspects should not be shown before the court rules on the case. Especially since they are underage.

Any of the standards above should pertain to any person, be he or she a Romani, a Pole, an Italian or a Ukrainian. But somehow these standards are broken only when it comes to Romani. That is not an over-exaggeration.

As we read into other news on sexually motivated crimes committed in the city of Kryvyi Rih, we encounter headlines like:

– "A married couple detained in Kryvyi Rih for child sexual abuse and rape of their young daughter". Ethnicity of parents not mentioned.

– "A man tried to rape an underage girl at one of the Kryvyi Rih parks". Ethnic background of suspected rapists not specified. He is, however, referred to as 'a pervert'. 

– "A serial rapist and murderer detained in Kryvyi Rih". Guess again? Ethnic origin not emphasised by journalists. Why so? Is it not important who is behind the six assaults at women, two of which ended in murders? (spoiler: no, it isn't. The crime was committed by the specific man in question. He is a rapist and a murderer through the very fact of the deed he committed; not by virtue of his race or skin colour).

Case in point: in all of the three cases mentioned above, faces of suspects were diligently blurred. So why are journalistic standards in place in one case but forsaken otherwise? And why do standards fail to work exactly when it is about the Romani people?

So, here goes a small question for the law enforcement. How do mass media get their hands at the latest photos of the subjects? What is the price of your honour?

Crimes in Ukraine are being committed by people of various ethnicities, not just the Romanis 

We reiterate: we do not justify the actions of the suspects. They must be held responsible before law.

We are, however, concerned by consequences of such a biased description of what happened by the mass media. This ethnic-based emphasis is what discrimination and anti-Roma pogroms may start with. (We have examples of the above in Ukraine's recent history.)

And then there is another aspect we would like to draw your attention to: the percentage ratio. Absolute majority of all crimes are committed by people of various ethnicities. Infringements of law by Romanis are separate cases. But when one emphasises the Romani ethnicity, one creates an impression that every Romani is a criminal.

Logically, such an impression might be extrapolated across any other ethnicity. But somehow we do not do that. Suppose a Ukrainian woman living abroad is murdered by her domestic partner, a foreigner; we would not say that all Italians, Frenchmen, or Germans are wife-murderers, would we?

We have the cause of Rebuilding of Ukraine before us. And we would love it to be marked, first and foremost, by equal rights, unbiased attitude, and respect towards every person in the spirit of the rule of law. After all, discrimination by race, skin colour, sex, religious or other preferences is inexcusable.

We thus call on journalists to shed light to events and focus on the crime instead of pestering an ethnic group.