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Female media workers call on Lyudmila Denisova to abstain from detailed descriptions when informing the public about rape

25.05.2022, 12:25

Ukrainian media outlets call on the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmila Denisova to abstain from excessively detailed descriptions of sexual crimes during the war, as well as to verify and carefully consider every word to avoid sensationalism in the reports.

This is stated in an open address regarding the communication on sexual crimes during the war.

The media workers are concerned and sometimes outraged by the rhetoric of reports of sexual crimes during the war which are being posted on the social media of the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights.

They note that russian war criminals must be punished, meanwhile reports of such crimes should be published with caution, especially with regards to the children and minors.

"While communicating sexual crimes to the public during the war (especially when the victims are children), it is important to consider not only the ethics of the wording, but also whether publishing certain details that may be shocking is justified and appropriate. For example, 'a six-month-old girl was raped with a teaspoon by russians,' 'two babies were raped orally and anally,' and 'a nine-month-old daughter was raped with a candle,'" the statement said.

The authors of the address note that sexual crimes during the war are family tragedies, a difficult and traumatic subject, and not a topic for publications in the spirit of a "scandalous chronicle." They urge us to remember the goal: to draw attention to the facts of crime.

"This information is being spread in the media, sensitive words become clickable headlines, and public opinion leaders are quoting it in blogs, during international cultural events organized to advocate for survivors, draw attention to the war in Ukraine and horrific crimes committed by russians," the address says.

In addition, the media workers point out that any information published by the Commissioner or her office has the status of verified facts.They point out that it is very important that the information about the sexual crimes of the invaders is really verified.

"For children who have been sexually abused by the russian military and died, official public communication should include forensic findings. However, even in this case, each word must be balanced and carefully selected. The details of the crimes that you report publicly draw public attention to the work of investigative bodies, the justice system; people demand investigations, trials, punishments," the appeal reads.

It is noted that it is extremely important that the Commissioner, as an official, "considers the rights and dignity of the survivor and their relatives." Therefore, the appeal states, she should adhere to ethical standards of information presentation, as the media continue to disseminate it in their own publications, preserving the original wording and publishing them to a wide audience.

"Sensational content, stigmatization, insinuations and 'gruesome details' of human tragedies will not help us to overcome the enemy and bring attention to the problem of sexual crimes during war. We are concerned that the Ukrainian media may become just a platform for spreading 'horrible details' about sexual crimes during the war, instead of serving as a voice in support of gathering evidence for the according criminal cases and fair punishment and informing people about where and how the survivors of violence can appeal for help," the address reads.

The media workers also point out that it is important to understand that sexual crimes during war are an instrument of genocide, an instrument of waging war without rules, but they cannot serve as illustrative material to inflame the emotions of the audience.

In this regard, the signatories ask that Lyudmila Denisova, while providing information about sexual crimes during the war:

  1. Discloses only the information sufficiently corroborated by evidence; checks the facts before publication.
  2. Reports on what materials have been submitted to the justice authorities.
  3. Verifies and thinks through every word to avoid sensationalism in the messages.
  4. Avoids excessively detailed descriptions of crimes.
  5. Uses correct terminology, such as using the word "survivors" instead of "victims."
  6. Considers the privacy and safety of the survivors. Remember that survivors can be identified if they live in small villages or towns.
  7. Reminds the public about survivor support networks (legal, human rights, professional psychological assistance).
  8. Guidelines such as “Sexual Violence and the Media. How to write about rape during the war” and the CJE's Recommendations on coverage of deaths during the war might also be useful.


Lisa Kuzmenko, Member of the Commission on Journalistic Ethics, Chair of the NGO "Women in the Media"

Elizaveta Sokurenko, journalist of the ZMINA Human Rights Center

Larysa Denysenko, writer, lawyer, human rights activist, radio host

Christina Semerin, researcher, journalist

Victoria Yermolaeva, journalist of the Suspilne Radio

Tetyana Pechonchyk, Member of the Commission on Journalistic Ethics, Chairman of the Board of the ZMINA Human Rights Center

Olena Horyacheva, journalist of "SLM News" LLC (ICTV and STB TV channels)

Zoya Krasovska, media expert

Juliana Lozova, journalist

Tatiana Stroy, media expert, journalist

Oleksandra Horchynska, journalist of the NV website

Natalia Holodyuk, Director of the "Rayon" news agency

Tatiana Honchenko, freelance journalist

Yaroslava Tsybulska, public figure in the field of protection of children's rights

Khrystyna Horobets, journalist

Victoria Topol, Editor-in-Chief of Education Media "New Ukrainian School"

Anastasia Bahalika, host and editor of Suspilne Radio

Diana Dutsyk, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Institute of Media and Communication

Olha Yurkova, journalist, media expert

Yulia Hrytsenko, media manager, media expert

Antonina Chundak, content manager, freelance journalist

Iryna Andreytsiv, editor of

Nina Korol, journalist of

Ruslana Kravchenko, host and editor of Suspilne Radio

Tetyana Troshchynska, Editor-in-Chief of Suspilne Radio

Iryna Nebesna, journalist, editor of TMC.INFO

Kamila Hrabchuk, journalist, The New York Times producer

Olha Reshetylova, Coordinator of the Media Initiative for Human Rights

Anna Ulyura, literary critic, Candidate of Philological Studies

Oksana Maksymenyuk, Head of the Legal Department of "Institute of Regional Press" public organization

Svitlana Bondar, journalist, Odessa

Marina Luta, journalist, editor of Radio Culture

Anna Novozhilova, localization specialist, editor, Kyiv

Olha Bilousenko, Detector Media journalist

Anastasia Hudyma, Editor, Producer, Suspilne Broadcasting (Coordination Center for National Communities Broadcasting)

Natalia Slipenko, translator, editor, Kyiv

Tamila Ivanova, journalist of Suspilne Kherson

Yulia Danylenko, journalist

Alyona Romaniuk, media expert, NotaYenota fact checker

Olha Padiryakova, editor-in-chief of ZMINA online publication

Anna Slutskaya, journalist, head of Volia Charitable Foundation, Uman

Taisiya Herasimova, communication manager of Insight NGO, Women's March initiative

Oksana Pavlenko, Editor-in-Chief of

Ovcharenko Anna, a.i. General Director of "TV-7" Television and Radio Company LLC, Mariupol

Marina Kuraptseva, journalist of Dom TV channel

Natalka Sirobab, journalist of

NGO Detector Media

The address is available for signing: you can leave your signature at [email protected] (state your last name and first name, the organization for which you work, or your profession / status in the letter).

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