8 March 2012

Campaigns and Advocacy

International Women's Day 2012: Writing wrongs against women


(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - International Women's Day is celebrated around the world not only to honour women's social, political and economic achievements, but also to reflect upon the obstacles that impede their progress and continue to deny them equality and justice. On the occasion of International Women's Day 2012, ARTICLE 19 highlights the sensitive and too rarely discussed issue of discrimination against women within the media.

For the past year ARTICLE 19 has been implementing a pilot project in Bangladesh on the issue of women's participation in the media. It has found evidence of significant levels of gender-based discrimination and censorship of women journalists. It has also found that that this reality is a "taboo" subject - rarely spoken of. The project identified that the sector itself is a major challenge: within the media there is little willingness to acknowledge issues of discrimination and censorship that originate in the sector's own culture and ways of working.

"Discrimination against women is ever present in Bangladesh's media work places. This is not an easy topic to uncover, identify or address, but it is essential that we face up to it. This erodes freedom of expression of women throughout the country, and detracts from the freedom of expression of all," commented Tahmina Rahman, ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia Director.

ARTICLE 19's pioneering project has provided female journalists a secure opportunity to speak about their experiences of gender-based censorship and develop strategies to raise it with their editors. The project successfully generated a critical mass of both women and men journalists who strongly believe in enhancing the rights of women journalists in Bangladesh. "Someone has to speak out the truth," said Zia Shaheen, Reporter of the Daily Manab Zamin, Barisal district.

Dialogue with media houses and their leadership has also been generated. "Media houses cannot shy away from these issues, it is in their own interest to acknowledge the prevalence of gender discrimination and censorship, and only then will they be able to develop good practices to make the media free from it," asserted Abdul Qayum, Joint Editor of Prothom Alo, the largest circulating Bangla newspaper in the country in one roundtable with media houses.

"Ending gender-based censorship within and by the media is integral to the realisation of women's rights. It is also critical to the overall fight against censorship, to freedom of expression more broadly and to media freedom. The silencing of women journalists and of women within the media demeans the sector itself, undermines human rights and weakens democracy," says Dr. Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

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