Exploring the Intersections of Gender and Journalist Safety

Exploring the Intersections of Gender and Journalist Safety

Date: April 25, 2017
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The question arises whether the media development community does enough to foster engagement over the concerns surrounding gender and media practice, the unique and evolving threats confronting women journalists in the workplace and during the course of their work? Are these concerns adequately articulated within the global media development agenda? And what can be done to foster an integrated approach to journalist safety? Colleen Lowe Morna, is immediate past Chair of the International Steering Committee at UNESCO’s Global Alliance on Media and Gender and CEO of Gender Links, advises the media development community to embark on a deliberate drive to sensitise journalists, editors, and media houses on existing legal instruments on journalist protection in their countries, provide safety training and specialised support services for journalists who have been victims of violence, and to conduct baseline research on the lived experiences of women journalists that can contribute towards strengthening advocacy efforts on this issue.

What are the specific threats and vulnerabilities faced by women journalists, activists, and media practitioners?

Journalists’ safety, especially female journalists’, is becoming a serious cause for concern. Female journalists are facing a myriad of challenges in their practice of journalism. These include amongst others intimidation, sexual violation in the field and sexual harassment in their own newsrooms, or even from news sources. There is a rise in online harassment with journalists being insulted, intimidated, and trolled. Perpetrators have been getting away with it mainly because they can hide behind the mask of anonymity online. This instils fear in the journalists both online and in real physical life. This may effectively silence the journalist leading to self-censorship, with some women even leaving the profession. It is, however, saddening that in many instances these threats remain unreported and are not taken seriously. Female journalists are also subjected to unfair practices in their newsrooms where many times they are stereotypically assigned to certain types of stories or roles, paralysing their ability to break the glass ceiling in the media sector.

Online/ digital harassment, intimidation, and attacks against women journalists, activists, and media practitioners have been on the rise. What should be the requirements for an integrated approach towards journalist safety (incorporating both digital and physical safety) with special attention to the unique threats faced by women in this field?

Gender Links encourages and promotes the development and implementation of policies and procedures that can change the institutional practices and individual behaviours in newsrooms to protect female journalists from being harassed and also discriminated against. Media houses must be strict in enforcing such policies and procedures for them to be effective. Media houses should be on the frontline in protecting the journalists they deploy. They should provide them with equipment, allow for flexible working hours, give adequate preparation, and both physical and digital security training for journalists they send out for assignments especially into dangerous zones.

What can the media development community do in catering towards more gender-sensitive engagement with regard to journalist safety?

Raising awareness on journalist safety with an integrated gender approach can begin in journalism and media education. Institutions of higher learning need to explore the differential impact of threats, violations, and intimidation of journalists, both women and men, in order to build the knowledge of future journalists from the very outset.

The media development community can embark on a deliberate drive to sensitise journalists, editors, and media house owners on the legal instruments available in their countries to protect journalists and how they can remain safe both online and offline. They can also offer training on safety and specialised support services for journalists who have survived violence or threats.

It is also important for the media development sector to record, document, and research the lived realities of women journalists encountering threats in their line of duty both offline and online in order to establish a baseline they can use for advocacy purposes that can contribute to improvements in journalists safety.

Article courtesy of the Global Forum for Media Development

Author: GMFD News

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