Women Journalists trained on Gender Sensitivity and Professional Safety
South Asia regional training workshop for women journalists was organized in Godawari, Nepal, on 3-4 November 2017. The training workshop attended by 21 women journalists from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan was organized by Media Action Nepal (MAN) and ARTICLE 19 as part of organizers’ campaign on ending impunity for crimes against journalists and those who exercise the right to freedom of expression.
The two-day training workshop discussed issues related to impunity, self-censorship, gender sensitivity and professional safety of women journalists in the region. Immediate and long-term strategies to promote gender sensitive content in media, freedom of expression, and safety of women journalists were highlighted by the facilitators during the workshop.
On first day the training objectives, importance of the safety of media workers, issue of gender sensitivity and an introduction about the professional safety for women journalists were highlighted followed by the working sessions on impunity, self-censorship, handling hostile situation, newsroom challenges and protection mechanism on the second day. The facilitators explained to the participating women journalists the importance of physical, professional and personal safety. Participants from different countries said sexual harassment, discrimination in pay and promotion, character assassination at workplaces are common problems women journalists face in South Asian countries.
Laxman Datt Pant, renowned media rights advocate and chairperson at Media Action Nepal (MAN) facilitated a session highlighting the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity, media accountability, impunity and self-censorship. ‘Reasons behind self-censorship by journalists are professional insecurity, absence of the rule of law, inadequate law enforcement and widespread impunity’, Pant said while moderating the session. Pant suggested to journalists to immediately report the threat cases to their supervisors and also approach law implementing agencies if necessary. The participants revealed that journalists censor their stories for fear of attacks and losing jobs.
Tahmina Rahman, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 for South Asia facilitated a session on ‘professional safety of women journalists’ where Rahman asked participating journalists to compare policies and guidelines of their respective media outlets towards workplace safety including sexual harassment, discrimination, night time work, day care, maternity leave, hazardous assignments, promotion of women to senior position and capacity building. Participants said that only 50% of such provisions are implemented by their respective media houses.
Associate editor of The Asian Age, Syed Badrul Ahsan, shared how women journalists had been fighting their lonely battle in Bangladesh. “Women are getting threats and are forced to leave their jobs for the stories they report,” Badrul added. Similarly Prakash Rimal, editor of The Himalayan Times informed about challenges women journalists face in newsrooms such as long and inconsistent working hours, pressure from family and working atmosphere. Rimal suggested to journalists to talk, share and report their problems. Namrata Sharma, Chairperson of Center for Investigative Journalism facilitated a session on tackling hostile situation where Sharma discussed about the professional safety of women journalists in the region. Similarly Babita Basnet, Senior Journalist from Nepal facilitated a session on gender sensitive media.