Double standards have always been yet another uncomfortable truth in society; a truth that we continue to fight against. We see it in our social lives, workplaces and favorite venues and make our choices accordingly. But it is especially disturbing to see them in places that claim to be free of such notions and promise us that they are delivering unbiased news.
Let me summarize the article in question that managed to get specific attention. Earlier this month an article in the Turkish media suggested that the CEO of a technology giant allegedly flew in a prostitute from another country and later on stole her cellphone in the morning. According to the article, the accused denied the charges after he went to the police station. Neither the name of the accused CEO nor the company he runs was named in the article.
With only this summary in mind the article only shows the telltale signs of tabloids. As the ethics of tabloid journalism is entirely another matter, it is one that I will not talk about in this article. The problem wasn't found in the news article itself, but the photos used alongside.
The first photo is a blurred portrait of a man assumed to be the CEO. The blurring is done no doubt to protect the reputation of the man. We only hope that the news organizations follow the same procedure when the people are not CEOs. The name of the company also was not given to protect its commercial standing. Another good approach.
However, the next photo completely shatters all illusion and leaves us with the classic case of a double standard. The photo of the woman alleged to be involved, whose phone was stolen, was published without any attempt to blur it. While her name was also not in the article, the photo showed her face very clearly, and it is not hard to determine her identity.
So why did the newspaper published the article with great respect to the CEO's right of privacy but not offer the same courtesy to the women who is supposed to be the victim here? While this is not a rape case, portrayals of victims in those cases caused great uproars, and it was the general consensus that the victims should also be protected by the press. This should also apply in any cases where victims unintentionally find themselves in the middle of a situation that landed them in the pages of a newspaper.
After studying the article I am left with a couple of possible reasons why the victim's face was not blurred.
1) While the CEO had a reputation to maintain, according to whoever decided to publish it without blurring, the alleged prostitute did not.
2) The alleged crime was committed by a CEO, and therefore, it was only he who needed protecting until the charges were proven or not.
3) The sex appeal of the woman was the driving force behind the hits the article got, and it was purely a financial decision.
So if the reason was the first one, then it does not even warrant a proper response as it clearly defines journalistic ethics without any hope of recovery.
If the reason was number two, I direct you to the previous paragraph and repeat that victims deserve the protection of the media regardless of the crime. Not to mention the article also suggests the woman also committed a crime as well since the passport law forbids entry to Turkey for the purposes of prostitution.
The third reason is a widespread problem in digital media, a problem that we have discussed repeatedly on this page. But reader comments that asked the writer of the article: "How about the reputation of the woman?" shows us that continuing with that business model will only serve to lower credibility and trust.
There might of course be one other reason. The photo itself might not even belong to the woman in question and was used only as a placeholder. This is a disturbingly common tactic in Turkish media, unfortunately. In that case I cannot even decide which is worse, tramping on the rights of the actual alleged victim or someone completely unrelated to the event.