Global: Celebrating World Press Freedom Day

Global: Celebrating World Press Freedom Day

Date: May 3, 2018
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Johannesburg, 2 May: On 3 May, we commemorate World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) under the theme “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law”.

This year’s celebrations take place amidst the strengthening of the #MeToo campaign concerning sexual harassment (online and offline), safety of female journalists and campaigns against gender pay gaps in media institutions. This call for ending sexual harassment and making journalism a safe profession for women also took centre stage at the recently ended Commission on the Status of Women whose review theme was on participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies.

Journalists’ safety especially safety of women journalists is becoming a serious cause of concern. Women’s participation in the media is clearly under threat leading to self-censorship and even some women leaving the profession. There are also unacceptable pay gaps between women and men in big media and technology companies. It is however saddening that in many instances these threats remain under reported and gaps not documented well enough to give substantial evidence of gender inequality in the media industry.

Twenty-seven years since the passing of the Windhoek Declaration (1991) promoting an independent and pluralistic press, the media is still struggling to achieve this goal.

Although free media is largely described as a mirror in which the public can see itself this reality is not fully reflected. Women are underrepresented, misrepresented and often treated unfairly in the media. Despite years of activism, education and advocacy aiming at ensuring safety of female journalists, all voices are heard, equal opportunities are created and equal treatment is practiced the media still falls short.

Women’s sources in the news have increased by a mere three percentage points in Southern Africa since the ground-breaking  Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) conducted in 2003 and by just one percentage point since the 2010 Gender and Media Progress Study GMPS. Women sources rose from 17% in 2003 to 19% in 2010 and now 20%.

According to the 2015 Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) only four Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries score higher than the regional and global average. Seychelles maintained its position as one of the better performing countries at 28%, a six-percentage point increase since the 2003 GMBS. Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe also recorded significant increases since the baseline study. However, the DRC and Mauritius regressed, moving from 15% to 6% and 17% to 10% respectively.

With women’s voices making up only one fifth of those whose views and voices are heard in the news media this is evidence that only a fraction of reality is reflected. Gender censorship is still a glaring reality in the absence of plural voices. Under representation of women’s voices is systematically silencing and side-lining women from being heard on issues that equally concern them.

The GMPS puts a huge spotlight on media practice, professionalism and ethics. The media’s failure to amplify women’s voices acts against the principle of just and inclusive societies.

Gender equality is inextricably linked with freedom of expression, participation and human rights it is thus essential that the media give voice to all in society. The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (2002) pronounces access to information and freedom of expression as a fundamental and alienable human right. That makes women’s access to expression a fundamental right.

Gaps are also persistent in the low representation of women in the media sector especially in the decision-making levels. Women in most SADC countries consist 52% of the total population, but their representation at the decision-making position is still low. Women journalists are also subjected to unfair practices in their newsrooms where many times they are stereotypically assigned to certain types of stories or roles, which paralyses their ability to break the glass ceiling in the media sector.

This year Gender Links (GL), The South Africa National Editors Forum (SANEF) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) are undertaking the Glass Ceilings: Women in South Africa media houses research project to assess the gender gaps in the South Africa media environment.

As part of commemorating WPFD GL is hosting a webinar on 14 May to engage institutions of higher learning, activists and media practitioners in a robust, engaging and informative discussion under the theme Rewriting her story: Women in Politics, lessons from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.  The webinar aims to explore the narratives on portrayal of women leaders in general and in politics specifically. This webinar will also feed into the ongoing gender and elections discussions and the 50-50 campaign.. It will also look at how information and communication technologies are promoting women’s free expression.

For more information contact GL Media Manager, Tarisai Nyamweda on  or call 002711 029 0006 or 002711 028 2410.




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