Women’s right to freedom of expression requires them to be equally able to share their ideas and opinions – online and offline – without censorship or fear of retaliation, which can drive them out of public debate.

Proposals to improve journalists’ safety often assume that one size fits all. Yet ARTICLE 19 has found that women journalists face uniquely gendered risks – from workplace harassment to online rape threats and physical attacks. A gendered lens is vital to understand and mitigate these risks.

Women journalists are not a monolithic group. The risks and abuse they face differ depending on their race, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, and other characteristics. Those who already face oppression in one form or another typically face greater risks and harsher abuse.

Such an approach requires us to attend to women’s everyday lives, in all their diversity. And it enables us to learn from women’s creativity and resilience in the face of structural inequalities.

An intersectional feminist approach – one that accounts for these intersecting forms of oppression – is needed to enhance the safety of all women journalists, everywhere. 

ARTICLE 19’s new project, Equally Safe: Towards a Feminist Approach to the Safety of Journalists, offers new research, case studies from 6 countries, practical guidelines, and advocacy tools. These will help civil society, journalists, researchers, and policy makers to apply an intersectional feminist approach in their work.

The facts

Women journalists – especially those who experience or are at risk of discrimination – routinely face gender-based harassment and abuse

Between half and two-thirds of women journalists have experienced such attacks – from rape to psychological abuse and online harassment. Women from groups in situations or at risk of discrimination are targeted more often

Those responsible for these attacks and discrimination are multiple, varied, and rarely held accountable

Attacks against journalists are often carried out by governments and other powerful actors that want to silence them. But women journalists also experience attacks from their sources, colleagues, and even their own family members – and those responsible are rarely held accountable.

An intersectional feminist approach is needed to enhance the safety of all women journalists

Current approaches to the safety of journalists – including those adopted by public authorities, media houses, and civil society organisations – are failing women. To truly tackle the violence and abuse faced by women journalists, including those facing intersecting forms of discrimination, an intersectional feminist approach is needed.

Across the world, women journalists are designing solutions that work for them

Our research showcases creative solutions, designed by and for women journalists, that place their needs front and centre. We can learn from and replicate these solutions.

Recommendations

All women’s voices, experiences, needs, and human rights should be at the centre of the actions State and non-State actors undertake to protect journalists.

All measures concerning the safety of journalists should be developed under the assumption that women’s right to freedom of expression is key to ending structural discrimination, historical inequality, and unequal power relations. Discrimination and inequality increase the risks women face for carrying out their journalistic activities.

All stakeholders involved in the safety of journalists should reassess the lens through which the safety of journalists is analysed and therefore used to propose solutions to the different risks faced by women journalists.

 

Policy makers working to protect women journalists must consider the challenges and violence women face in their private and public spheres.

State actors should tackle impunity for crimes against women journalists. Their strategies for doing so must consider the different forms of violence that women journalists face. They must also remove the barriers that prevent women journalists from accessing justice.

Resources

Global research: New global research exploring what a feminist approach to the safety of journalists might look like, with grassroots examples worldwide.

Intersectional gender guidelines: A set of three practical guidelines on how to take an intersectional gender approach to: 1) Monitoring and documenting attacks against journalists; 2) Using emblematic cases in advocacy; and 3) Protection training.

Advocacy sheets: A series of quick reference guides on States’ international obligations to protect journalists, to assist in advocacy efforts (more coming soon).

Case studies: 6 country case studies from Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka showcasing creative solutions designed by and for women journalists (coming soon!).

Images: Original photos © Shutterstock. Illustrations by Mariana Coan