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Saturday 21 September 2019
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Women journalists under attack

Female journalists in the Americas are two times more likely to be victims of violence for exercising freedom of expression and because of their gender than their male counterparts, a new report from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has said. The report, released on Friday, International Women’s Day, was commissioned through the IACHR’s Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. It said in addition to the risks of threats and violence faced by all human rights defenders and journalists in the region, women journalists are exposed to additional or specific risks, including online attacks, release of personal data, sexual harassment and rape in retaliation for stories.

“By challenging chauvinistic stereotypes that disapprove of their participation in public life, they face discrimination based on their gender. In addition, they face a lack of protection and obstacles in access to justice that are also differentiated from their male counterparts,” the report said.

These types of attacks, especially online harassment, insults, and bullying, have only increased in recent years. Among the most frequent forms of online violence are monitoring and stalking, the publication of personal data, trolling, discrediting, defamation, disqualification, and viral hatred. Women who cover issues such as politics, law, economics, sports, and women's rights are at particular risk of being victims of online violence.

Throughout the region, violence against women journalists on the basis of gender manifests itself in different ways, said the report, including murder, sexual violence, sexual harassment, intimidation, abuse of power, and gender-based threats among the most common manifestations. The most common reported cases of violence are rape in retaliation for their work, sexual abuse of journalists in captivity or detention, or sexual violence by mobs against journalists covering public events. In cases where acts of violence affecting women journalists are reported, impunity against the aggressors are the norm rather than the exception, the report noted.

Women also face discrimination in the media and the workplace because of the persistent stereotype that journalism is not an "appropriate" profession for women. In the office, the most frequent practices are unwanted comments about their clothes, whistles, jokes of a sexual nature, and unwanted physical contact.

“These discriminatory social norms limit opportunities for women's professional development. Moreover, women are over-represented among those who report news covering issues traditionally related to “female interest” and under-represented in the coverage of topics considered to be of particular interest, such as those related to politics and government or economics. In addition, indigenous or Afro-descendent women journalists are often disproportionately under-represented in traditional media,” the report said.

While the report recognised efforts made by some countries to establish protection programmes and mechanisms, there remains in many places “the absence of specific protection mechanisms or the deficiencies associated with the design and effective implementation of existing mechanisms.” “Frequently, protection schemes neglect the particularities of the beneficiary's family situation, such as having children of school age, as well as the tasks of domestic work, school supervision, and unpaid care that fall disproportionately on women, which deepens the impact of violence,” the office noted.

Read the full report at http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/expression/docs/reports/WomenJournalists.pdf

Gender-based violence reported by women journalists

Verbal abuse (63 per cent)

Psychological abuse (41 per cent)

Economic exploitation (21 per cent)

Physical violence (11 per cent)

These forms of violence are perpetrated both by people outside the workplace (sources, politicians, readers, or other audiences) and by bosses or superiors.

Also, 44 per cent of women surveyed reported being harassed online

Source: International Federation of Journalists: November 2017

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