On International Women’s Day, 8 March, ARTICLE 19 celebrates the women of Tunisia and announces the launch of its digital awareness campaign calling for an end to violence against women online and to promote their rights to equality and freedom of expression. These pursuits align with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day 2023: ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’.
ARTICLE 19 congratulates the women of Tunisia and praises their role in public life, including their accomplishments towards achieving equality, their relentless pursuit of excellence in all fields in which they work and contribute to, regardless of their position, and their passion to ensure their voices are heard both online and offline.
ARTICLE 19 highlights the importance of establishing real gender equality in digital spaces, dispelling with any form of violence and discrimination on the basis of gender, in order to ensure that women can fully enjoy their right to free expression, thus enhancing their enjoyment of all their other rights and freedoms on an equal basis with men.
In recent years Tunisia has witnessed numerous efforts and initiatives, especially at the legislation level, to combat violence against women and girls, including in the media sector and in digital spaces. These efforts have created opportunities to promote women’s equal access to information, and for women to raise their voices, to freely express their opinions, and to enhance their civil, media and political participation. Despite this, the actual concretisation of gender equality, and specifically equality with regard to freedom of expression, still faces multiple barriers, not least because the technological boom has contributed to the proliferation of new forms of violence targeting women and girls in the digital environment.
Spread of violence against girls and women online
ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the prevalence of violence against women and girls that has swept the digital environment, including on online media platforms. ARTICLE 19’s research and monitoring of media and web content, in preparation of a guidance document on mechanisms to combat violence and discrimination against women and girls on the digital platforms of traditional media, makes clear the extent of the negative impact. On the ground, this phenomenon affects the rights of women victims of violence, survivors and women and girls in general, especially given the absence of media practices that take into account the impact of violence against women and girls online.
The spread of violence against women and girls on social media platforms is due to a range of factors, including the failure of both the media sector and civil society to contain the problem quickly enough. Media institutions have failed to follow up offences in real time, or to even monitor posts, comments and interactions on their sites or on social networks, which in turn has led to the proliferation of even more abuse being spread at breakneck speed. The phenomenon has been particularly exacerbated by the failure of key representatives from media and civil society to launch an integrated, coordinated and joint strategy to combat violence against women, and which takes into account the latest developments in technological development and its impact. Such a strategy could not only reduce violence against women and girls in the media and on digital platforms, but also promote respect for professional ethics and quality standards in the media’s treatment of women and girls and the coverage of issues that affect them.
Highlighting opportunities for change
ARTICLE 19 stresses that the promotion of women’s rights to freedom of expression and equality requires the intervention of representatives from the media sector, given the vital role the media continues to play in the digital age. The media must promote equality, and ensure pluralism and diversity that foster an inclusive and broad social dialogue. Therefore, addressing digital violence against women and girls is a shared responsibility.
Accordingly, ARTICLE 19 calls on media actors, media institutions and civil society, as well as public institutions tasked with defending women’s rights and protecting them from violence, to mobilise their efforts and coordinate strategically to combat violence against women and girls online.
ARTICLE 19 also calls on relevant stakeholders to develop monitoring indicators for media content and to consider media organisations’ efforts to ensure reliable media coverage of violence against women and girls, including on digital platforms and social networks. These indicators should be adopted to evaluate ethical and quality journalism.
In parallel with the publication of the guidance document on mechanisms to combat violence and discrimination against women and girls in the media, ARTICLE 19’s digital awareness campaign will highlight the role formal mechanisms will play in the prevention and confrontation of violence against women online, while at the same time promoting their rights to equality and freedom of expression.