HRC44: Action needed on violence against women journalists

HRC44: Action needed on violence against women journalists - Protection


ARTICLE 19’s full statement for the interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women at the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur’s annual report is devoted to combatting violence against women journalists.

ARTICLE 19 calls on States to take concrete and targeted steps to end impunity for violence against women journalists, and to adopt a gender-responsive approach in the design and implementation of national policies for the protection of journalists, in line with international standards. We also call on the Human Rights Council to create gender-responsive mechanisms to tackle violence against journalists.


ARTICLE 19 commends the Special Rapporteur for devoting her annual report to combatting violence against women journalists. We share your serious concerns over gender-based reprisals and other forms of violence which affect women journalists and social communicators disproportionately, or differently, when compared to their male counterparts.

Across the globe, women journalists and women social media communicators are at increased risk of threats, such as online harassment and abuse, and of sexual violence, as a result of their journalistic activities. Women journalists face threats even where they should be the most safe – their own newsrooms.

In Mexico, for example, gender-based violence against women journalists comprises a large part of crime that is met with impunity, as documented by ARTICLE 19. In March 2020, journalist Maria Elena Ferral was murdered because of her reporting on corruption. The prosecutors only investigated her private life, rather than the crimes she reported on, revictimising her family. Today, journalist Lydia Cacho remains in forced displacement following continued violent threats related to her investigative journalism on child sex trafficking and pornography. The perpetrators behind her sexual torture in 2005, and later the trespassing of her home in 2019, have not been brought to justice.

In Brazil, ARTICLE 19 has documented continued verbal attacks against the press, with a disproportionate focus on women journalists, by a number of high-level State officials. This has served to incite further widespread attacks against them. An emblematic case is that of Patricia Campos Mello, a journalist who has been threatened and subjected to misogynistic attacks from 2018 at the hands of public figures for her reporting on the presidential election campaign.

In Bangladesh, women journalists continue to be a minority among those practicing journalism, representing close to 15%. Deeply rooted societal norms and gender stereotypes present an enormous challenge to women’s ability to begin and pursue a career in journalism on equal terms with men. In 2019, ARTICLE 19 documented 18 cases of attacks against women journalists, including a disturbing number of cases of sexual harassment in their own newsrooms. During the first three months of COVID 19 crisis, at least 21 women journalists from various national print, radio and television have lost their jobs.

In Myanmar, repression of dissent alongside societal gender-based discrimination and violence creates specific risks for women journalists and activists. Alongside online stalking, phishing, hacking and character attacks, women activists have been targeted with doctored images of sexual or otherwise intimate behaviour coupled with blackmail or extortion.

In Kenya, attacks against journalists have been gradually increasing in recent years, particularly during the election period in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In recent months, ARTICLE 19 has documented an increased number of lay-offs in the journalistic industry and an increase cases of cases of sexual harassment against women journalists, including in the workplace. Moreover, gender-based online harassment and abuse against women journalists in relation to their journalistic activities is on the rise and at least 75% of women journalists affirm having experienced it, according to data by ARTICLE 19 and our partner AMWIK.

All these examples are not the exception, but rather the norm. ARTICLE 19 has documented cases of gender-based attacks against women journalists in many countries in all regions of the world.

Understanding the different types of threats that face women journalists, and how they are experienced differently by them, is essential to developing comprehensive, tailored measures to prevent, protect against, and remedy attacks on the safety of women journalists. However, this gender dimension is often absent from responses aimed at tackling the safety of journalists. Moreover, women journalists are not a monolithic group, and their safety should be addressed also taking into account other factors, such as their race, religion, age, socio-economic status and sexual orientation.

We urge all States to take concrete and targeted steps to end impunity for violence against women journalists, and to adopt a gender-responsive approach in the design and implementation of national policies for the protection of journalists, in line with international standards.

We urge all public officials to refrain from denigrating, intimidating and threatening journalists and using misogynistic language towards women journalists.

We also call on this Council to support:

  • First, the establishment of a gender-responsive Standing Instrument for the Criminal Investigation into Allegations of Targeted Killing, or other acts of violence against journalists;
  • Second, the creation of a Special Procedures Task-Force to undertake gender-responsive rapid response missions to countries where impunity for attacks against women journalists prevails; and,
  • Third, undertake a gender-responsive comprehensive international review of best practices in the investigation, assessment and/or response to threats and risks and of the underlying national and international legal framework.