311_house of Raanana murder suspect.
(photo credit: YAAKOV LAPPIN)
Wednesday’s murders in Ra’anana marked the seventh case of a child or children
murdered by a parent or a close relative that I have covered in just over two
years as The Jerusalem Post’s Social Affairs Reporter.
RELATED:Social workers to boost training after child murdersRoni, 4, and Natalie, 6, laid to rest in Ra’anana
While each one
raises many questions, ranging from what type of society Israel has become to
the numerous challenges faced by modern day parents, the sticking point for me
as a journalist is whether our own detailed coverage of such tragedies inspires
others to follow suit? This is not a lighthearted question and of course it’s
clear that murdering one’s children cannot simply be explained as a
However, the eerie similarities between all seven incidents begs
the question. If each successive parent had not read about the previous case or
cases on the front pages of Israel’s dailies or watched the events unfold –
often in real time – on TV or the Internet, then perhaps the idea of killing
their children when it all got too much would never have entered their
In 2000, the World Health Organization published “Preventing
Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals,” which states: “One of the many
factors that may lead a vulnerable individual to suicide could be publicity
about suicides in the media. How the media report on suicide cases can influence
While copycat suicides seem to be well documented, there
is little research to indicate that parents murdering their children are spurred
by what they see or hear in the media.
“I doubt that by the media
reporting such incidents it would give someone the idea that this is a good
thing to do and that they should do the same thing,” Dr. Yitzhak Kadman,
executive director of the National Council for the Child, said on Thursday, a
day after Michal Aloni choked to death her two young daughters.
cases vilification in the media might even deter the next murder,” Kadman
According to the National Council for the Child, 42 children have
been murdered by family members in the last eight years and there is an average
of five or six cases in Israel each year.
“We have not really noticed
that the more coverage one of these cases got from the media, the more cases
there were,” Kadman said.
Rather than encouraging copycat acts, most
experts working in the field of detecting or preventing child abuse, which is
often the forerunner to such murders, would likely agree with Kadman’s
assessment and even take it further by calling for more media attention to be
paid to the issue.
In fact, they say that media reports help to create
awareness of children at risk and alert neighbors, friends, teachers and doctors
to acts that were once well hidden behind the walls of a family’s
They believe that creating awareness is one of the keys to
So, if all agree that media reports create awareness and
awareness helps alert authorities and prevent more tragedies, the final question
should be: How should newspapers and television cover these emotionally loaded
crimes? Kadman says that the red flag must be waved when the “level of coverage
becomes almost pornographic.”
He is referring to the often unfounded
speculation by the media as to why such a murder has happened or the baseless
character assessments often shared by distant relatives or out of touch
neighbors, and especially the insensitive and clearly sensationalist invasion of
the crime scene by voyeuristic TV cameras.
Perhaps as journalists we
should focus our energies toward sparking discourse in society about its
attitudes toward the plight of struggling parents or weaker populations and help
figure out in general how to become a more tolerant and caring
All of which could help to prevent the next child from being