Editor’s Note

Editor’s Note

Date: June 1, 2011
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Gender and media freedom seminars will be held in ten Southern Africa countries over the coming weeks, kicking off with a Facebook and Twitter social networking campaign titled What has gender got to do with media freedom? Click here for the concept note. The seminars will contribute to a draft Addendum to the Windhoek Declaration on Gender and the Media to be submitted at the Africa Information and Media Summit in Cape Town in September 2011. The initiative coincides with the development of global indicators on gender spearheaded by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and UNESCO. Plans are also afloat for the launching of Gender Centres of Excellence in the media and media training institutions.

Planning for the seminars and media Centres of Excellence commenced at the second advisory meeting of the Gender and Media Diversity Centre (GMDC). Southern African GMDC partners linked up with their international counterparts in a telecon that included a briefing by the IFJ (whom we welcome as our latest partner to the GMDC); the International Media Women’s Federation, the African Women and Child Feature Service, who are actively involved in the AIM Summit preparations, and UN Women in New York.

The newly revamped UN Women is working on its six-year strategic plan, including Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action. UN Women are impressed with the trailblazing work on gender and the media in Southern Africa, and may consider piloting a “Seal of Approval” scheme for the media COE’s, borrowing from a similar initiative with the private sector in Egypt.

This newsletter keeps partners and friends up to date on the latest news from the GMDC as well as exciting issues and debates on topics related to gender, media and diversity from the wider world. The GMDC’s work is both local and global and it hopes to highlight first-hand perspectives from the African continent and beyond.

In this month’s Diversity Exchange we focus on freedom of expression that is, as mass communications theorist Denis McQuail notes “sufficient to protect free and open public expression of ideas and information.” Ideally, this freedom should help address societal imbalances such as the representation of women and men in the media and in media content.

The World Association of Christian Communication’s (WACC) 2010 global research report Who makes the News, found that 24% of the people interviewed, heard, seen or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news are female. On the other hand, the International Women’s Media Foundation’s (IWMF) Global Report on the Status Women in the News Media, has revealed that almost three quarters of top jobs in media houses are held by men.

Because of such imbalances, the IFJ is in the process of finalising a set of indicators for media houses to help bring about gender equality in news content and in newsroom structures. The 2010 Global Media Monitoring Project noted that “The cultural underpinnings of gender inequality and discrimination against women are reinforced through the media.” The end result is that women are deprived of their right to freedom of expression.

These international initiatives, including Gender Links research such as the Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) and Glass Ceilings, can be used to advocate for gender mainstreaming in media freedom and access to information initiatives. At regional level, the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media is currently being reviewed as part of 20th anniversary celebrations. Research can be used to advocate for incorporating gender into this important Declaration.

In a related freedom of expression issue, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to information in Africa, Commissioner Faith Pansy Tlakula, has released a Draft Model Law for African Union Member States on Access to Information. Consultations have begun and will inform changes to the draft, which is expected to be adopted at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ (ACHPR) 50th Ordinary Session in October 2011. It is distressing that, once again, there is a very narrow understanding of access to information, and a failure to take into consideration the differential impact this issue has on women and men. If this is going to be a model law it should be exhaustive, also highlighting the gender dimensions of access to information.

Regionally, GL is leading a new initiative establishing Media Centres of Excellence (COEs) in gender mainstreaming. The initiative has evolved after ten years of media work in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and is a comprehensive strategy that now calls for a more holistic approach to addressing regional gender gaps in the media. This will complement ongoing work with journalists, media regulators, media trainers and citizens. As Sikhonzile Ndlovu, GL’s Media Programme Manager notes, “the COE strategy in media institutions is an initiative for sustained action to integrate gender into media content, newsrooms and media training institutions.”

In February 2010, UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, the ACHPR and other stakeholders issued a Joint Declaration: Ten Key Challenges to Freedom of Expression in the Next Decade. It notes vast discrimination in the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression by disadvantaged groups, including sexual minorities. In this edition, the University of Botswana’s David Kerr writes about Straight and Narrow, a play his student’s recently wrote and performed. The play about gay rights details how gay Africans struggle to claim their space in society. It has been performed at the University and also at two other Gaborone venues as part of the annual Maitisong Arts Festival.

Musical expression is also highlighted in this edition with a discussion of three songs that demonstrate how music and song continue to perpetuate gender stereotypes. A popular song from South Africa called “Jezebel” likens a young woman to the biblical Jezebel, the lyrics relating how her partner accuses her of using her sexual prowess to lure men, in particular disc jockeys. We ask the question: whose freedom is such a song advancing?

The GMDC knowledge hub is offering new information which can be used by trainers and researchers for topics related to gender, media and diversity. Three items from each of our databases: newspaper clippings, case studies, research and publications are highlighted. A highlight from this month is a case study on South Africa’s recent local elections, where women’s representation dropped in what will be the final local election before the SADC Gender Protocol’s 2015 target for gender equality in SADC government.

Finally, the GMDC will soon be signing an MOU with the International Federation of Journalists. Until next month, enjoy!


0 thoughts on “Editor’s Note”

Flolics Kasumbalesa says:

l want to be part of 20th anniversary of celebrating Windhoek Declaration on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media in the SADC region.
We just have to support Research can be used to advocate for incorporating of gender into this important Declaration.Yours in Solidarity Flolics Kasumbalesa, Lusaka, Zambia.

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