At the conclusion on Sunday 8 June of a two day workshop: “Right Wrongs against Women Journalists,” women journalists called for institutional changes in media houses so that their rights are protected. The workshop was organised by ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh with the support of FreePressUnlimited, a Dutch organisation that promotes freedom of the press, pluralism and diversity.
ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh has been campaigning to end gender-based discrimination in the media and censorship against women journalists. Women journalists in Bangladesh face many challenges, including low pay, and they lack protection from threats, harassment and vexatious litigation.
The two day workshop held in the capital Dhaka, was attended by over 60 women journalists, online activists and community radio initiators from print and electronic media, online portals and community radio. The participants discussed the range of discrimination faced by women journalists, the rights they have and the realities on the ground. Through small group discussions they also mapped gender based violations of their rights to freedom of expression, to be treated equally before the law and as employees, and their rights to join and represent associations.
Nadia Sharmeen who was physically assaulted by the right wing religious fundamentalist group Hefazat last year was also a participant, commenting on the obstacles to women’s participation in the media. She said: “ We have a difficult way ahead of us, the only way to overcome this is to get ourselves organised.”
Shapla Rahman, came from Jessore district a south western part of the country, and is a member of the ARTICLE 19 women journalists’ network. She added:
“I am very pleased to see women of the same fraternity from all over the country and very hopeful that we will be able to form a strong network to support each other and fight for our rights.”
Commenting on the various sessions of the workshop, Nasreen Sultana of Dhaka said,
“It is so important to know the legal basis, our rights and the avenues we have for protecting ourselves, the workshop has opened new dimensions in our learning.”
The participants also identified a number of strategies. Shanta Maria of BD News24.com said:
“ We need to make collective efforts in ensuring our rights, we should form networks and support groups at the district level. At the national level we should establish a support center, build strong alliances with international organisations working on protection of journalists, dialogue with media houses, and organise effective web based campaigns, only then will we reach our destination”.
Earlier on Friday, speakers at an inauguration presided by Ms. Tahmina Rahman, Director, ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh & South Asia included Mr. Shah Alamgir, Director General, Press Institute of Bangladesh; Ms. Tasmima Hossain, Acting Editor, Fortnightly Anannya, Parveeen Sultana Jhuma, Secretary General Bangladesh Nari Sangbadik Kendro; Ms. Nishat Jahan Rana, prominent writer and artist; Mr. Kamrul Hassan Monju, Executive Director, Mass-line Media Center, Ms. Supriti Dhar, Editor, Women’s Chapter.
“We have been working with women journalists to ensure that their safety and security are protected. This new programme will support many more women journalists to enable them to speak without fear and work in an enabling environment,” said Tahmina Rahman, director of ARTICLE 19 for Bangladesh and South Asia.