Change in the news-media behavior toward crime-victim families is crucial. Both the media and the families benefit from a mutual co-operation. The media could play a vital therapeutic role for the victims. This exposure of family testimonials would allow them to tell their crime stories in a forum that will receive broad public viewing.
The media’s presence is necessary inside and outside of the courtroom, not just on the scene by a reporter looking for a juicy tidbit of news coverage to present to their editor. Follow-up with both legal counsel and the victim/family will make sure there is accuracy in the information distributed. It will also create an open line of communication to get further details if necessary.
Rivkah: What impact has the media had on this case?
Michael: Again the lack of presence is obvious. Therefore, the rights of the victim and/or their family are not being properly represented.
Note: Being a victim not only applies to the injured or dead person(s), but also must include the family members and others close to the direct victims. Further trauma may occur to secondary victims through their encounters with insensitive journalists and the cold and impersonal nature of the criminal justice system.
Rivkah: How could the media’s involvement have helped/harmed your case?
Michael: This is a more important issue with the “Ali” case (Second accused who was also in the car with Wail), it is more political. The summation in that case involved an attack on the methods of the Shabak (Shin Bet – Security Services).
Note: The media can help humanize a victim and their experiences at a time when the criminal justice system is so focused on the offender(s) and the crime. It can help someone tell their story of resilience and hope. It may offer an avenue for the murder victim’s family to talk about their loved one, or give someone a platform to advocate for social change or justice reforms.
Media coverage can re-victimize victims, especially if overly sensational or inaccurate coverage. It can reinforce misconceptions and myths about crime victims. Focusing on the sensational, high-profile crimes, often means other families with less compelling stories needs are not fulfilled.
Media involvement can impact different victims in different ways. The media will pick which victims get the most coverage and the most sympathetic coverage depending on characteristics of the victims, of the crime and the offender.
For families, this is not easy to understand. They may, if the coverage is vast, feel violated by the endless coverage and the rehashing of the details of their child’s murder and intrusions in their privacy. In cases with limited or no coverage, families may wonder why their loved one was not important enough to garner more public interest and sympathy.
Rivkah: What are your thoughts about the articles that I sent to you and that you read before this interview?
Michael: These are the columnist’s words, expressing his or her opinion. They have a right to freedom of speech. I am not sure exactly what that means here in Israel. There has been a complaint filed against the columnist “Amira Hass” for the article “The Inner Syntax of Palestinian Stone-Throwing”.
Note: Several negative aspects of the media occur during coverage of crime and victims occur. Inaccurate information can shape public opinion and government policies. Like in the Amira Hass article, where the media take on the murders birthright to throw rocks, downplays the victim’s rights and legitimacy of prosecution pursuing charges against the accused.
Rivkah: What about ways of establishing memorial type projects?
Does this help the family?
Michael: This is definitely helpful and is I believe part of what we earlier termed as part of the survivor ship phenomenon.
How soon after the tragedy should this be done, or this a personal decision as far as timing?
Michael: Each person must decide this for themselves. How they decide to memorialize their family member, when and even if it is not done.
Note: Many times Michael (like many other victims of terror attacks) expressed that he could not consider himself to be anything other than a victim of the crippling loss, let alone a survivor.
After answering the first question during this interview (victim vs. survivor) and now discussing the ways one can memorialize his loved ones, Michael has come to realize that perhaps it is possible to begin to think of oneself as a survivor.Rivkah Rybak
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