COMMENT

Identifying nationality in crime stories

I am writing to you concerning an issue in the Monday, June 8, English-language edition of Kathimerini. On Page 1 of the paper you report on several crimes committed in Greece, including a «Santorini rape.» In the piece you state that the victim is «alleged to have identified a 29-year-old Albanian...» I take issue with the fact that you here report the ethnicity/nationality of the alleged rapist. There exists within the media a well-known bias for reporting race/ethnicity/nationality when alleged criminals belong to a minority even when, as in this case, this is irrelevant to the story. In cases where alleged criminals belong to the majority race, ethnicity/nationality is seldom, if ever, reported. In this case, you report that the alleged rapist is Albanian even though this is completely irrelevant to the case. Does it matter where the rapist comes from? The only thing that reporting the fact that he is Albanian can accomplish is to increase prejudice against Albanians (of which I am sure you will agree there is already enough in Greece) or against foreigners generally. In the other cases you report, where the race/ethnicity/nationality of the alleged criminals must also be known, for example in the briefs «Magnetic charm» and «Red-light robber,» you do not report this information. I do not know but I would presume that at least some of these alleged criminals are Greek. In the case of two Finnish journalists in «Borderline,» it is probably relevant to report their nationality. Can I suggest that you adopt an editorial policy of not reporting the race/ethnicity/nationality of criminals, alleged or proven guilty, unless it is actually of relevance to the case. By doing so, you would be taking a responsible stance in not promoting prejudice and negative stereotyping. MARTIN LILJA Vyronas, Athens

Editor's response: It is our policy to report all the information supplied by authorities and to attribute it to them. Privacy laws do not usually allow us to name suspects, which we make clear to readers, but do allow us to give information, such as age, profession, town/city of residence and nationality. All of this information is vital to our providing a complete and proper service to our readers who may, in some cases, have a particular interest in an incident and will want to know all the evidence and allegations being presented by authorities. We report the nationality of alleged perpetrators because it is something that is relevant to the story. In the case of the Santorini incident, if the suspect had been American, British or German, would it not have been a significant story? Clearly, we cannot report the nationality of a suspect if he is from one part of the world and not if he is from another.  As far as not clearly identifying Greeks as suspects, we do not do this because it's given that it's more likely that a crime in Greece will be committed by a local rather than a foreigner (as police statistics that we have regularly published underline). However, if a crime is committed by a group of people that includes foreigners, we identify how many Greeks were involved. Finally, in respect to combating prejudice, I believe that through our reporting of relevant news stories and the content of our opinion pieces, we have consistently fought against any negative stereotyping.

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