Is freedom of the press incompatible with gender empowerment? Global Issues


Women journalists in Kabul, June 2019.Credit: UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) / Fardin Waezi
  • By Thalif Deen (United nations)
  • Inter Press service
  • May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. This is part of a series of IPS features and editorials focused on media freedom globally.

As the United Nations ramps up its campaign for women’s rights around the world – even as it annually celebrates International Press Freedom Day on May 3 – one of the questions lingering in activists’ minds is: Is press freedom incompatible with gender empowerment?

Mariana Bellalpa Barreto, leader of the CIVICUS civil space group, the Johannesburg-based global civil society coalition, told IPS that CIVICUS Monitor has documented many cases of female journalists facing online harassment and the gendered nature of it.

In its annual report: People Power Under Attack (PPUA) 2020, the Global Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS) documented the use of intimidation as a tactic to deter journalists and human rights defenders (human rights defenders).

In particular, numerous cases of intimidation of women journalists have been documented in the Balkans, with threats often of a gender nature.

at North Macedonia, Journalist who received messages on Facebook and Twitter containing verbal abuse and hate speech. She received dozens of letters threatening her with rape and murder in response to her work.

at Bosnia and Herzegovina A journalist was threatened for covering a story related to environmental rights.

at BulgariaA journalist, whose story negatively portrayed a group of the extreme right, was forced to flee the country with her family after receiving unknown threats against her and her family, with her personal information being leaked on the Internet.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris and the Washington-based International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) conducted a global survey last year to assess the scale and impacts of Violence online It targets women journalists, “and to help identify solutions to this insidious problem.”

The International Center for Journalists says it is the most comprehensive and geographically diverse survey ever conducted on the topic, presented in five languages ​​and receiving responses from 714 journalists * from 113 countries.

Key findings include the following: Three out of every four women respondents (73%) said they had experienced online violence; Threats of physical violence (25%) and sexual (18%) plague female journalists surveyed; One in five women (20%) said they were attacked or abused offline in categorized incidents online.

Female journalists around the world face a number of safety hazards while reporting, and risk silencing their voices as journalists and women in public, Lucy Westcott, James W. Foley, an emergency research assistant at the Committee to Protect Journalists, told IPS. Life.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has spoken to women journalists around the world – including in the many countries highlighted in the UNESCO and ICJ report, such as BrazilAnd the South Africa, The United kingdom And the we– Who described how to deal with threats they faced while reporting, online harassment, anti-women attacks, threats of sexual violence and murder.

She said that female journalists also run the risk of physical assault while covering the field, especially if they are reporting on their own. Freelance journalists face a particular risk, as they lack the support and backing of a traditional newsroom.

“Online harassment remains one of the biggest threats to the safety of women journalists globally, and online threats can extend into a realistic environment.” Westcott, a former Newsweek writer and UN correspondent for the Inter Press Service (IPS), said the impact of harassment Online internet is far reaching, and it can also lead to trauma and mental health difficulties.

She added, “The safety of journalists is a press freedom issue, and women journalists should be able to do their work and report the news without fear for their safety and livelihood. Editors must be aware of the risks that women journalists face and help them take steps to mitigate these risks.”

Tara Carey, Head of the Media Department In Equality Now, women journalists around the world said that women journalists around the world are speaking publicly about their experiences of online violence and harassment, and studies indicate an alarming increase in anti-women digital abuse targeting female journalists.

“Cyber-phishing and psychological assault manifests itself in various ways and is implemented to intimidate, stigmatize and silence women. It can range from sexual harassment and threats of sexual and physical violence, including murder, to privacy violations such as piracy and non-consensual publishing of intimate images, and ‘doxing’, which includes Personal information and contact details that are leaked to the public.

“Phishing is sometimes part of an organized campaign in which multiple attackers participate, and the abuse is often worse when it intersects with other forms of discrimination, such as association with race, nationality, religion, sect, race and sexual orientation,” she said.

Online violence and harassment can take a heavy toll, leaving those targeted feeling stressed, fearful, depressed, and, in some cases, at greater risk.

Carey said it is disturbing that digital abuse is so closely linked to offline violence that many female journalists have asserted that they have been threatened, abused or assaulted in face-to-face meetings on the job.

“This attack limits women’s participation in the media and undermines our ability to participate freely in public debate, report contentious issues, or challenge discrimination. Some women are pushed to censor what they say, withdraw from online public conversations and press reports, or even give up. Completely about the press.

Carey stated, “Online abuse against female journalists is an attack on freedom of speech and expression. The low representation of women in news reporting undermines gender diversity in public discourse and risks marginalizing gender-sensitive reporting on issues affecting women and girls.”

Meanwhile, on the occasion of International Women’s Day last March, UNESCO launched a campaign to highlight the specific risks that women journalists face online.

“This violence harms women’s right to speak and society’s right to know,” says Guy Berger, Director of Policy, Strategies, Communication and Information at UNESCO.

“To address this growing trend, we need to find collective solutions to protect female journalists from online violence,” he adds. This includes strong responses from social media platforms, national authorities and media organizations.

Pelalpa Barreto said that CIVICUS also continues to document cases in different regions of the world, as evidenced by the following examples:

  1. Three female journalists in Lebanon, Dima Sadiq, Luna Safwan and Mohsen Morsel, were subjected to an intense hate campaign:
  2. Jerry Scott, Westminster reporter for the Yorkshire Post, faced harassment online after appearing on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC One. After appearing on the show, Scott was targeted by a “phishing campaign”, when she received 52 follow-up requests on Instagram, “abusive messages and even rape threats:” -assembly -under-threat-crackdown-environmental -and-blm -protesters
  3. In Brazil, Civicus has documented several cases ( In addition, a report published by the Brazilian Journalism Association (ABRAJI) on violence against women journalists in Brazil identified 20 attacks on Brazilian women journalists between January 2019 and February 2020, including misogyny and sexist crimes, defamation campaigns and revelations of personality. Information. Of the 17 cases recorded in 2019, members of the federal Congress, state, ministers, and President Bolsonaro himself carried out 13 cases. 84% of journalists interviewed for the study also said that they had experienced gender-based violence at work.
  4. News outlet Prensa Comunitaria and his journalists are running a smear campaign in conservative media and on social media for their coverage of the International Women’s Day march on March 8, 2020 in Guatemala City:

Carey of Equality Now said: “Dealing with online abuse should not fall upon those who are being targeted. Media houses need to develop and implement gender-specific guidance and training that includes anti-harassment policies. Female journalists should feel comfortable raising concerns about abuse and chambers. The news should take responsibility for ensuring that they feel safe and supported.

Laws must be modernized and implemented to address this problem. Criminal justice systems should provide support and redress to victims and punish the perpetrators. Achieving justice, and showing that it is being done, is important to the individual and because the consequences can pay off as a deterrent to others.

“There is also a need to increase awareness and understanding among law enforcement agencies and social media companies, along with adopting zero-tolerance policies that involve responsible actors taking prompt and appropriate action against perpetrators.”

* Thalef Dean, senior editor for the United Nations Inter-Press Service (IPS) news agency, is the author of a recent book by the United Nations, No Commentary, No Quote From Me available on Amazon. The link to Amazon via the author’s site is as follows:

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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