Journalists must “get in step” with march to gender equality

Date: October 15, 2010
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As the African Decade for Women is launched in Nairobi today the Fourth Southern African Gender and Media (GEM) Summit has called on the media to “get in step” with the march to gender equality.

Participants have decried the increasing use of dirty tactics and tabloid media; weak ethical practices and blatant violation of the rights of women that continues to occur, often unchallenged, in the region’s media.

Summit participants have also strongly condemned the Ugandan tabloid newspaper The Rolling Stone for seeking out purported Ugandan homosexuals on Facebook and featuring them in a front page article entitled “100 pictures of Uganda’s Top homos leak.” This occurs against the backdrop of the controversial Anti-homosexuality Bill seeking to ban homosexuality in the East African nation.

The 130 GEM summit delegates have expressed disappointment at the slow rate of change within the media and its editorial content, regulators, analysts, trainers and media practitioners warned that the media is failing to comply with the provisions of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development.

The Protocol brings together and enhances international and African commitments to gender equality by setting 28 targets to be achieved by 2015. Specific provisions on the media include achieving parity in decision-making (an area in which there have been rapid strides in politics); giving equal voice to women and men; challenging gender stereotypes; sensitive coverage of HIV and AIDS and gender violence. The Protocol also calls on the media to mainstream gender in all laws, training and policy.

The delegates from 20 countries said the gender disparities in the news occur within a broader framework of lack of diversity in media ownership and “armchair” journalism which results in the media seeking out a few voices of authority: often men.

The summit ended today with the Gender and Media Awards that featured examples of reporting that celebrated diversity; challenged stereotypes and included the views of women and men on all subjects.

These talented reporters are already “in step” with the march to gender equality. It’s high time for the rest of the journalists in the region to step up their game.



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