They ask, insist, investigate how public officials spend our money, they continuously represent a woman outside the “box”, suffer the clutches of the tabloids because they are leading the train of those who defend the face of journalism. They are Milica Stojanović, Bojana Pavlović, Maja Nikolić, Milica Kravić, Tamara Srijemac and Tamara Skrozza. The journalists.
Despite the low rankings of Serbia regarding the professionalism and freedom of the media (last year Serbia fell from 59th to 66th place according to the list of the Reporters Without Borders international organization), this list could certainly be supplemented with the names of a dozen women whose journalistic work is worthy of attention.
However, because of the topics they dealt with, the challenges and the ways in which they overcome them, we chose these six colleagues to discuss how the journalistic community and society in general relates to a woman. In and outside the media.
Milica Kravic and Tamara Srijemac are editing and hosting the radio show “Woman in a Box”, which is broadcasted every second Sunday on Radio Novi Sad’s first program at 11:15 am.
Milica’s impression is that feminism is still the word from which cringes our stomach because, as she says, it implies something bad, some bigotry and some kind of hatred, first of all towards men.
“Right? Well, it’s not. Feminism and feminists thank you for everything. For what I am doing in journalism, because I have the opportunity to answer to your questions, for women who are sitting in the courtrooms, cure at the hospitals and bring decisions in our name”, Milica reminds.
When it comes to journalism, she is concerned that the discourse and image of women in the media remained stereotyped.
“I’m trying to influence women to stop thinking and writing stereotypically about the women. It is absurd that it is precisely in most of these magazines for women, the women journalists imply norms and often reporting about women in a very sexist manner, imposing the idea of beauty, tenderness and perseverance as primary, while on authenticity, boldness or other manners that, if we judge by the print media, mostly adorn men, we almost do not speak”, says the journalist of the show “Woman in a Box”.
There are more women in the media than their male colleagues, and the reason may be that there is not much money circulating in this business, says the editor of “Women in the Box” Tamara Srijemac.
“No important decisions are made in our profession. Men are more likely to choose better paid vocations and professions in which they can be decision-makers. It should be noted that in majority of the media, managing positions are reserved for men”, concludes Tamara.
The issue of the presence of women in the media industry through the “Gender Equality in the Media Sector in the EU” procedure has recently been raised by the European Parliament, after the report of the Michaela Šojdrová from the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.
Among other things, it is proposed to introduce quotas for managerial and expert positions, dealing with the issue of unequal amounts of remuneration for work, as well as the participation of women in the production of media content.
Investigative desks in Serbia, for example, are absolutely dominated by women. They are dealing with “dangerous” topics, exposing corruption, organized crime and money laundering.
Among them are Milica Stojanovic, journalist of the Center for Investigative Reporting of Serbia (CINS), who received the award for tolerance last year (third place, in the category of print / online media) for the text on victims of trafficking in human beings, and Bojana Pavlovic, journalist of KRIK – Crime and Corruption Reporting Network. Together with others from the KRIK team, Bojana is the winner of the International Data Journalism Award for the project “Database of Assets of Serbian Politicians”.
CINS’s journalist, Milica Stojanović, notes that women are in the majority when they apply for a school of journalism organized by her editorial staff.
“Knowing the conditions in which we work – the scope of the topics, the lack of resources, the pressures – that courage to enter into this work seems even more important”, Stojanović says.
Bojana Pavlovic from KRIK-researcher on crime and corruption notes the prejudice that these are topics for men.
“From the 1990’s onwards women were first to write about relationships of the state and crime, political assassinations, war profiteers … In our newsroom is the same – the majority of the journalists are women. Investigative journalism is a little different – the process of working on the story is long-lasting, and the outcome is often uncertain. It is important to have patience and persevere to the end. I would like, however, that besides journalists, we have a more women on editorial positions”, said Bojana.
Despite the popular belief that it will be easier for men to come to the sources that talk about crime, Milica Stojanović from CINS says that it did not happen to her to be treated better or worse by a source because she is a woman. Also, she would not give over any story with such a subject to her male colleague.
“I would not give it over, but I would ask for advice from my female or male colleague in relation with some source or some topic, if it is specific and if I have not dealt with it before. Also, I would not associate it with the gender, because, for example, if I were to do a story about the (football) fans or people from the criminal world, I would certainly ask for advice and help from colleagues in CINS who are dealing with these topics for years”, said Stojanović.
Bojana Pavlović is also of similar opinion. She would not give over a story to her female or male colleague, but she acknowledges that due to the nature of the work and security of journalists when interviewing people from the criminal world, there are usually two journalists present.
The courage, perseverance and extraordinary creativity in television discourse are shown to us daily by television journalist N1 Maja Nikolic. Last year the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS) presented her an award for investigative journalism in the category of electronic media.
When watching her work, you get the impression that she easily reach to the people and their stories, certainly due to her talent, knowledge and work on herself. And is the gender related to that people more or less easily relay their stories to the female or male journalists, Maja says she never even thought about it.
“The moment I introduce myself as ‘N1 journalist’ I think that ‘N1’ is the only reason, and if the ‘Maja Nikolić, N1 journalist’ increase their motivation, that’s because they follow my work, not because I am Maja, and not Marko”, she says, adding that the only discrimination that she sometimes encounters, only during the field work is regarding her age.
“And that’s just because the interlocutors who see me for the first time think I’m much younger than I really am. Then, in accordance with the prejudices towards younger people, they think that with youth, inexperience, naivety, insufficient knowledge to ask the right questions goes, they subdue me, they loosen up … and make mistake. It turns out I did learn something for the last 10 years that I have been working as a journalist”, a television journalist says.
“At the N1 newsroom, the same rules apply to female and male journalists, and ‘important’ topics can be dealt by everyone and only if they deserve it”, she says.
The commitment and sacrifice in the struggle for a better society, and the media, the journalist of a weekly magazine Vreme, Tamara Skrozza, shows for years. Without pausing and always with the same passion.
Her impression is that the status of women in the newsrooms and in society is significantly different from the status of their male colleagues. She observes a some kind of misogyny within the media.
“A male journalist in his seventies is considered a ‘bard of journalism’, a gentleman who speaks wisely, while female journalist of that age public virtually have no chance to see – except for a few exceptions, these are the women who are simply sidelined and are par excellence victims of so-called ageism. Female journalists as a rule, become ‘victims of family’: from the list of the most successful on the fingers of one hand can be counted those who have children or family, and there are even fewer of those that have a ‘standard family’ with two partners. ”
She reminds that in the journalism, a famous kafana (café) plays a certain role, where information are shared, deals and friendships are made, and where a woman manages to go until she has a child or marries.
During the past year, Tamara was very active in the group “For Freedom of the Media”, which emerged after the Vranjanske novine were shut down and in response to the pressures faced by this and many other newsrooms in Serbia. In order for the media, therefore, female and male journalists to work in better conditions, she believes that it is necessary for the state leadership to demonstrate the will and effort to restore freedom of speech and media freedom that are not only compromised here, but also collapsed to the root.
“As a profession, we are currently dealing with mere survival, because physical security and the basic right to freedom of speech are endangered. Without this, no improvement can be made, and this depends only and exclusively on the government. As far as we (journalists) are concerned, we have to show the ‘spine’, believe in what we write and pronounce, to keep our own dignity and not let us sell for those famous ‘quarter of a kilogram of the pork rinds’ “, Skrozza is convinced.
The award-winning television journalist Maja Nikolić believes that the key to “better life” for the media in Serbia is in their independence.
“In financial, but also in independence from politics. However, as the big capital and politics in centuries-long love, it follows that my position is idealistic and, therefore, utopian (except in the rare exceptions that statistics barely register), and therefore, three lines further I change my answer – perhaps it is necessary to change every government that uses female and male journalists to clean the floor with them”, says Nikolić.
The change must come from the newsrooms, says Milica Stojanović from CINS.
“Female and male editor should have more integrity, professionalism and awareness of prejudices to protect their journalists from harmful influences from outside. By these harmful influences I include political pressures, economic problems as well as gender-based harassment and pressures”, says this investigative journalist.
Her colleague from KRIK, Bojana Pavlović, attributes some responsibility for the state of affairs in domestic media to journalists themselves.
“They forgot what their role is. Instead of controlling the system, journalists under pressure gave in and put themselves at his service. I am quite exclusive here – if you cannot perform this work in accordance with professional standards, you might need to consider changing it”, Pavlović says.
For the editor of “Women in the Box” Tamara Srijemac, the trigger for change can be professionalism.
“If we are professionally engaged in journalism, confidence in the profession grows. Independence – to work on the independence of the media, independence from political and economic influence and more solidarity among female and male colleagues.”
Her associate, Milica Kravić, adds mutual respect, regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation.
“In professionalism it is quite lacking, I would say in all professions, but especially in journalism. It is not rarity that conclusions and judgments about the professionalism of individuals are made solely on the emotions, especially in professions in which the external appearence plays an important role, and journalism is one of such. Such practices must be changed by each of us individually. First we have to recognize them and then we have to invest in the expansion of perspective and knowledge. The Patriarchate is being changed by violation of these unfounded and long-established norms, which are restraining all human beings in the modern world, and women especially”, concludes Milica.