New insights into the Safety of Women Journalists

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Linda Steiner, Jonathan Bock, Aimee Vega Montiel and Carolyn Wilson.
© UNESCO
20 July 2017

Gender was the focus of the 3rd annual UNESCO panel on the safety of journalists at the 2017 academic conference of the International Association for Media and Communications Research, held in Cartagena, Colombia this week.

Setting the context, UNESCO’s director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger drew attention to draft recommendations arising from the Organization’s current global consultation on strengthening the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

These include recommendations whereby:

  • States could consider the need to: “Give particular attention to the specific violence against and  threats to the safety of women journalists, and take strong gender-sensitive measures to end such violence and threats without preventing them to carry out their journalistic tasks, including by taking action against sexual harassment and discrimination of women journalists,  online and offline, including by political actors, and by providing training on women’s rights and  the issue of  violence against them”.
  • Media actors could: “Instil a  greater  culture  of  safety  among media  owners  and news  managers,  who may not understand the risks facing journalists and the particular threats to women journalists; ... Counter social, cultural and other obstacles to equality between male and female journalists.”
  • For Internet intermediaries, “Recognise and monitor the specific situation of threats to women journalists on their platforms and services, and develop effective mechanisms to respond to harassment and attacks online.”

The five research presentations in the session were titled:

  • Examining Women Journalists´ Resistance to Violence
  • Gender violence against women journalists in Mexico.
  • Why women war reporters keep silent about sexual assault and why this matters
  • Gender violence against women journalists in Colombia
  • How trolls silence freedom of press: an examination of online harassment of women journalists.

The presenters were Carolyn M. Byerly (Howard University, USA);  Aimeé Vega Montiel (National Autonomous University of Mexico, Center of Interdisciplinary Research in Sciences and Humanities); Linda Steiner (University of Maryland, USA); Jonathan Bock (Fundacion para Liberdade de la Prensa – FLIP, Colombia). Michelle Ferrier (Ohio University, USA) took part through video conferencing.

Commenting from the floor, Prof Rune Otteson (Oslo University College, Norway) said that it was important to expand the focus to research into the attitudes and experiences of male journalists in regard to the safety of their female counterparts.  He encouraged participation in a forthcoming conference “Safety of Journalists covering Conflict and Sensitive Issues”, to be held in Oslo in November to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.