NAME:  Manju Mishra, PhD

LOCATION:  Kathmandu, Nepal


I run the College of Journalism and Mass Communication (CJMC) in Kathmandu, and I am the founder Chairperson. CJMC is a pioneer in Nepalese media education. We are the first college to run a Masters in mass communication and journalism, a Masters in development communication, and a Bachelor degree in mass communication and Journalism. We started first FM Station in the country, the college run CJMC FM 106 MHz. CJMC is 15 years old.  Prior to this, I lived in Moscow for 14 years and in Dubai for 3 years. I was awarded my PhD in mass communications by Patrice Lumumba University, Moscow.


I got started in journalism because I always had this desire to express myself. But education was elusive in the 1980’s in Nepal. There were not many good colleges in the country. In order to get a comprehensive understanding of journalism I realized I had to go abroad. I received a scholarship to study masters in journalism at Moscow.  I lived, worked and studied in Moscow for 14 years. I worked for Radio Moscow. I returned to Nepal at the age of 37. Nepal had changed, however a few things remained the same – in our mindset. Patriarchal impulses were very acute in our society; the very idea of women working office jobs was disapproved of by the other half. The society had not yet embraced and acknowledged the need for women to rise and stand as equals. Although I had a PhD, it did not mean much in Nepal. I felt I had to prove myself, and having realized there was this massive need for media education in the country, I started CJMC with a mere 250 US dollars.

Initially, when I needed money for a library and computers for the college, I knocked on the doors of many donor agencies and international NGO’s working for women’s empowerment in Nepal but to no avail – I felt? it was all a façade. But slowly, opportunities for receiving assistance presented, in many forms.

It is critical we persevere without expectation; follow our passion without any insistence on the outcome and the universe shall come forward to support us in our endeavor. I was determined to challenge this male dominated media society in Nepal.  If you dream, you can do it.

Today CJMC is an entrepreneur in five different areas of media education. We have also received PhD fellowship from Makarere University under our various exchange programs.


When I come across people working in mainstream media I find it most challenging, because our journalists are so lowly paid but still they pay to get an education in journalism. I find satisfaction when I see tangible improvements as result of my actions. The most challenging thing in today’s world is to initiate an idea into action without money. We realize only then how almost everything is arbitrated by money. We entrepreneurs find great satisfaction in putting our creativity to the test, to finds way to make things happen, without money.


The media industry in Nepal is in its initial stages of development. The industry is not sufficiently regulated and I believe that incompetent media personnel outnumber educated journalists.  Journalists are paid minimal wages and, as a result, money has been allowed to dictate the content of our news.

However, women’s participation in our media is truly encouraging and competition between media houses has ensured fresh news and fresh perspectives. Meanwhile, colleges are sprouting like mushrooms amidst poor regulation and running a media-only college in Nepal is certainly proving to be a challenge. I find satisfaction working in this industry, although in countries like Nepal this is the most challenging profession.


My long term goal is to establish the Communication University of Nepal (CU Nepal) in order to bring an end to the “old-schooling” of journalism in education in Nepal and to re-evaluate our teaching practices and academic standards. The campaign has run for a decade. I want this university to be an Asian Center for Media Excellence. We would be then be free to introduce different subjects into our courses. I believe once I achieve my goal, the international community will be more flexible, and work with me in areas of mutual interest.

I am also working actively to establish an Africa Research Center which will explore Africa in Nepal to conduct research on an entire continent that represents 54 nations of the world.  We have already started the Africa Film Festival, which has run since 2011 with a theme, Africa through African Lens.


I encourage everyone to re-examine their beliefs and get rid of any mindset that has the capacity to weaken their resolve for change and progress. I encourage everyone to commit to their passion. I am very result-oriented and very committed on doing the things that I set out to do. This way of operating has been an asset for me and I encourage everyone to do the same. I encourage people to travel a lot. I have travelled to 35 countries; I consider this to be my second degree – it has given me much confidence and a mature and grounded outlook on life. Also, it’s imperative that we always find ways to innovate and be creative in dealing with life situations. A creative person always has a greater probability of succeeding. I feel if we have a vision, a commitment to that vision and then a clear strategy to execute that vision, we won’t need many warnings and reminders about staying on course.

Articles about Dr Mishra’s work


The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has been named the winner of the 2015 Tom Renner Award by Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. (IRE).

The award was presented for The Khadija Project, which continues the work of imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist and OCCRP partner, Khadija Ismayilova. The reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) and OCCRP, was sentenced in 2015 on what many believe to be politically motivated charges. 

Ismayilova exposed many examples of corruption among the ruling elites of Azerbaijan. “This project has meant more to us than anything we published last year. We all live with a gnawing discomfort that one of our own sits in prison and it’s not fair,” said Drew Sullivan.

“This award goes to Khadija and we won’t rest and we won’t stop reporting until she is released.”

film collage

12th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival 2016 

Uma Tanuku, Aaradhana Kapoor & Ilang-Ilang Quijano

Can a barber in a tiny rundown shop in Myanmar, sniping away hair, really be presenting an oral treatise on politics in Myanmar? Or a sixteen year old girl driving through Mumbai, while chatting with her chauffeur, attempt to revisit the most serious labor unrest independent India has ever witnessed, now forgotten forever somewhere under the gleaming, towering high rises?

If audience responses to the 12th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival are any indication, then the answer is a resounding yes!

As the very many narratives unfolded at New Delhi’s India International Centre, weaving stories across genres, space and time, the audience laughed, cried and questioned. They shared the pain, sorrow and dispossession…kept faith and cheered silently… in 12 hours of film screenings everyday over 3 days in March.

These unique flavours of Asian life: history, politics, art, culture, conflict and strife, oppression and war, love and friendship, exile, stories about women nurturing the environment, of women questioning the multiple forms of violence affecting their everyday lives, make the IAWRT Asian Women’s film festival unique.

A much awaited seminar, ‘Documenting the Women’s Movement on Film’ was also held. At the seminar rare clips of films were also screened which saluted the women’s movement and it’s efforts to create an environment which questions the multiple forms of violence they were being subjected to in the 80s and 90s. They seemed as relevant today as back then.

Another highlight of the festival was a simple ceremony held to felicitate Dr. Vijaya Mulay. At 95 years of age, she had the audience enthralled as she spoke with Dr. Uma Chakravarty about her journey as a documentary filmmaker. Two of her films Ek, Anek aur Ekta (her most popular film) and The Tidal Bore (her first film) were screened.

Screening sessions were followed by discussions with the filmmakers who were present.  This year there were 26 filmmakers and sound artists participating in the festival. 

Earlier, the festival began with Healings an exhibition of paintings by Dr. Iris Odyuo, an artist from Nagaland in north-east India.  The paintings in the exhibition were an attempt to put faith in the goodness in each of us, so as to negate the conflict all around.

A special event Voices from Palestine was held on 4th March. The event had screenings of 11 stunning films from the region.

This event concluded with a seminar on Conflict, Gender and Media which had two discussions – Women living in Conflict and Women Reporting from Conflict.

Admittedly putting together the 12th IAWRT Asian Women’s film festival was no mean task ! 35 films from 13 countries were selected to be screened over three days.  ‘Soundphiles’ a celebration of listening without watching was all about exploring an aural world with 8 works presenting a diverse range of subjects.

Fortunately we also had an impressive team curating the films and sound works which was half the battle won! Smriti Nevatia, Priyanka Chbabra with the directors chipping in, watched a major chunk of the 180 diverse films, while Samina Mishra and Iram Ghufran curated the soundphiles package. Voices from Palestine was curated by Anupama Chandra and Monica Bhasin

The 12th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival showcased the works of women from the region in their myriad creative forms offering an informal, intimate and open platform for expressing collective histories, memories and narratives with freedom and equality.Something we are both humble and proud to have been a part of!

The full program available here. To obtain details about the films or filmmakers contact [email protected]

Questions women ask: Documentaries making sense of a world in turmoil

By Ilang-Ilang Quijano A personal perspective from Philippines filmmaker and IAWRT member 

“The world is in turmoil.” This was what Uma Tanuku, festival director of the 12th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival, told me upon arriving in New Delhi to present my documentary, Daughters of Cordillera.





It was understandable—the past few weeks in Delhi had seen the biggest student protests in 25 years, following the arrest of a university student who had allegedly said something seditious in a public speech. It was a period of political and social unrest, and many people—herself included—would not have chosen this as the best time to sit down in a theater to watch films.

Still, the show must go on. And if anything, the films shown in the festival, which showcases films directed exclusively by Asian women, reminded me how films, especially documentaries, can be so valuable in making sense of a world in turmoil.

The festival opened with Tazreen (2015), a film by Yasmine Kabir that documented the aftermath of a fire inside a garments factory in Bangladesh. It was a powerful film that was also deceptively simple—it consists almost entirely of medium-shot interviews with the family and survivors of the fire that trapped and killed more than a hundred people, and ended with a silent montage of photographs of the charred remains of the factory and its workers. It reminded me of the fire at the Kentex slipper factory last year, which claimed more than 80 lives back home. The scenario was horribly familiar—workers told of how steel bars and heavy locks barred their exit; those who survived could barely hang on. The film reminded me of how factory workers indeed remain the world’s modern-day slaves, whose voices are only heard and faces are only seen when tragedy strikes.

The Silenced Siren (2015) by Siya Chandrie follows her family driver as he points out commercial landmarks in Mumbai that used to be textile mill factories during the 1960s. Filmed entirely from the backseat, she used the car journey to tell the history of the local industry’s downfall. A 15-year-old student and the festival’s youngest filmmaker, Siya shows that one need not even need to be a professional filmmaker to create a documentary that is able to explore history and social phenomenon; one only needs to have a truly interesting point-of-view and the courage to pursue it through filming.

Also exploring changes in the urban landscape is Hey Neighbour! (2015) by Bingol Elmas. Filmed in Istanbul, it shows the contrast between the lives of those who live in high-rise condominiums or “lifestyle complexes” and those who remain in small neighbourhood houses over whom the constant threat of demolition looms. It successfully shows the tension between upper middle-class and lower middle-class neighbours whose income and lifestyle gaps are exacerbated by the non-inclusive model of urban development pushed by the government and private contractors. “Neighbourhood relationships are over. Before, our sorrows and joys are all common. Now the doors are all closed,” one resident rued. Hey Neighbour! is a thoughtful glimpse of how in the city, formerly open communities are being turned into gated, almost hostile communities that literally have no place for the poor, and even for those who are feel that a real home “is in its garden, its streets, and the people who live in it”—a fast disappearing luxury. .




Anyone who has ever wondered about what Syria in ruins looks and feels like to its people, who are perpetually torn between leaving and staying but eventually having no choice but to leave must watch Haunted (2015) by Liwaa Yazjie. The almost 2-hour documentary shuttles between characters who are in various stages of their lives as refugees: would-be refugees hanging on to the last threads of sanity in their war-torn homes; refugees in flux, living under miserable conditions in Beirut; and refugees who have made its safely abroad but feel anything but safe with the permanent loss of their homes. A memorable shot is that of heaps of household items and personal mementos being sold on the streets of Damascus, with no takers. All characters at one point utter memorable lines that reveal the depth of their despair and anger (“They stole my will. They stole a part of my country,” or “The only way is to replace a painful memory with an even more painful memory,”)—and we watch them as they struggle and then finally leave their beloved homeland.



The theme of war and displacement continued throughout the festival’s special program, Voices From Palestine. Palestinian student filmmakers presented short documentaries on how life carries on for ordinary citizens. “Things are okay, except for the Israeli occupation,” laughs Shahd Al Hindi, who presented her first film, Wajih & Himran (2014), a portrait of a camel herder.

The program shines with the award-winning Tears of Gaza (2010) by Vibeke Lokkeberg—a hard, unflinching look at how the Israeli occupation impacts Palestinian children. It uses actual footage of the aftermath of bombings that are often difficult to watch, as children are killed or maimed before your eyes. Equally difficult is to watch young children become orphans. But I guess sitting through such a difficult film is necessary for greater understanding of one of the biggest unresolved conflicts of our time, particularly the grief and anger that drives Palestinians to continue to fight for their freedom. We Cannot Go There Now, My Dear (2014) by Carol Mansour, meanwhile, is an interesting look into the plight of Palestinians who were displaced again from Syria where they had been protected as refugees. Many of them are now seeking refuge in Lebanon; others have fled to Europe. “Times commingle, and the burden grows heavy,” said a weary refugee. “We, the Palestinians, carry our country in our heart,” said another, with as much bravado as possible.

Leila Khaled Hijacker (2006) by Lina Makboul, on the other hand, is a portrait of the iconic woman hijacker in the 1960s who brought international attention to the Palestinian cause. I actually met Leila when she came to Manila last year for an anti-imperialist conference and protest, so I was doubly curious to watch a film about her. The story was told from the point-of-view of a Palestinian who grew up in Sweden and idolized Leila as a child but is now seeking to answer the question: is she a terrorist or a freedom fighter? The filmmaker finds her answer through probing interviews with Leila, as well as the pilot and attendants of the plane she hijacked. The interaction between protagonist and filmmaker is what makes the film most interesting; it showed subtly how, after all these years, Leila never let go of her principles, and what effect this had on the filmmaker.

The festival featured other film portraits of activists. Aside from my own film (which was about the Macliing women, indigenous peoples rights defenders in Cordillera), there was also Above Us, The Sky (2015) by Lin Li. The film was quite an effective portrait of theScottish anti-nuclear campaigner Brian Quail. Now 77 years old, he was asked about his life’s work, to which he responds, at first, how he’d really much rather talk about the plants in his garden. As the film unravels, he goes deep into questions of peace and justice (“Peace is not the mere absence of war”), and of what drives people to activism. He reveals that despite the tendency to “compromise, and reach out for the comforts of daily life,” activism, for him, is the most human response to “the grace, the gift of life.”

The displacement of indigenous peoples in North Vietnam—again a phenomenon happening pretty much across the whole of Asia—was central to Doan Hong Le’s So Close So Far, The Ancestral Forest (2015). The documentary follows indigenous peoples trying to live in a relocation area away from their ancestral lands because the government has built a dam. Shot for a period of more than three years, the film’s startling conclusion affirms the belief that old traditions and ways of living do not die easy, and after all, should not be allowed to die. Meanwhile, Anna Biak Tha Mawi’s The Barber (2015), showed how much has changed—but also fundamentally remained the same—for ordinary people in Myanmar’s changing political landscape.

So are documentaries directed by women marked different from those directed by men? I am inadvertently driven to ponder this question while watching the film festival, timed for International Women’s Day, or the symbolic day of celebration of the gains and struggles of women’s rights movements everywhere in the world. Because I think that much of documentary filmmaking is about observing, listening and building relationships with the people you film, and asking them—and society—the hard questions, I think that women in general have the tendency to do it quite well. They have the ability—through sensitivity, intimacy, and careful respect—to ferret out the truth from people who are at the center of their films—true feelings, true wisdom, and true inspiration,  which do great things for a film, but more importantly, I think, are very much needed to make sense and better order out of a world that is in constant or even increasing turmoil.

Filmmaking, I think, is a necessary component of the continuing struggle of women, especially Asian women, who historically have been marginalized and conditioned to stay hidden or silent along with the stories they hold most dear. Stories put forth by women documentary filmmakers have perspectives that are so instantly recognizable and common across Asian countries with shared histories and experiences of colonialism and occupation. They are more likely than not put forth not just to gain recognition or film awards, but to really try to make a difference in current ways of thinking that oppress or hinder them, or their people, from realizing their full potential—whether as a woman, as a person, or as a nation.

A young Indian student told me that she travelled nine hours by train to get to Delhi for the film festival. She was impressionable, idealistic, and curious, going around to talk to as many filmmakers as she can. She told me of how difficult it is for women in India to go into filmmaking, an industry mostly dominated by men. She asked me, is it difficult for me, a woman, in the Philippines to become a filmmaker? I hesitated for a second, weighing my answer, knowing full well that the context in my country would be different from hers. I said, “Well, no, but…” and went on to explain how it is not difficult for me per se, but perhaps for other Filipino women of different class origin, blah blah blah. “That’s okay. You said no,” she said, and smiled. I ended up thinking that I would want to watch a film a woman like that would one day make.

Pubslised with permission. originaly published in




“I like to see it as walking from the top of one mountain to the next”

team member, Iphigénie Marcoux-Fortier ESP

A mixed team of indigenous Mapuche communicators and filmmaker-trainers, including the IAWRT board member Iphigénie Marcoux-Fortier, has seen an exquisite short film emerge from a collaborative community project in southern Chile. The 6th Wapikoni Mobile stopover at the Mapuche School of Filmmaking and Communication of the Aylla Rewe Budi,  involved fifteen youths, supported by dozens of adults and elders, within communities of the Aylla Rewe Budi in the Araucanía Region.

Resistance and loss

The Mapuche nation (‘people of the land’) is one of the first peoples of what are today the States of Chile and Argentina. The Araucanía region has the highest proportion of ethnic Mapuche of any Chilean region, and it has been the main location of confrontations over land claims for many decades. After centuries of successful resistance to Spanish invaders, the Mapuche were militarily conquered by the newly independent Chilean state in a violent campaign known as the Pacification of Araucanía, lasting from 1861 to 1883. As a result of this conquest, Mapuche society was torn from its traditional relation to the land as families were forced into reducciones (reserves), reducing Mapuche territory from 10 million to 500 thousand hectares.

This particular project is collaboratively run by different Mapuche communities and organizations in Wallmapu (Mapuche territory), and the Quebec based Wapikoni mobile project which takes mobile studios, equipped with cutting-edge technology into First Nations communities. It is part of a continuing project that encourages cultural validation through the appropriation of media.

 Collective creation

The filmmaking method practiced by the school is collective creation, with each young participant contributing to a project according to her or his interests, curiosities, talents and skills. “The process of collective scripting is unique, as it’s an exercise where the youths also value the Mapuche way of being; that implies a lot of listening, but also a great effort for them to express clearly their visions, thoughts and needs,” says Iphigénie Marcoux-Fortier.

That type of creativity is challenging: “I like to see it as walking from the top of a mountain to the next one. In between, you can get lost because you don’t have the horizon to guide you. So it just fascinates me to see how, at the end of the day, with “az”, (Mapudungun language – Mapuche for patience and faith) it always comes all together. From year to year, we’ve been learning that.”

Cartooning, poetry & the lived experiences of Elders

Some participants jumped at the chance to learn animation techniques, creating figures out of plasticine, using the stop motion method, contributing their drawing talents, or learning the basics of advanced animation with the software After Effects.

Those with a more poetic penchant, worked together to write a narration filled with symbolism, or selected images to illustrate the final film with their beauty. Some worked with admirable concentration to subtitle content spoken in the indigenous language; others offered to get up at 5:00 am to go to the beach and film jaw-dropping images at sunrise. Two young girls dedicated themselves to practicing the complex pronunciation of Mapudugun, to deliver a moving narration.

All this was supported by the participation of the Elders who shared their knowledge and lived experiences, translators helped subtitle the material to Spanish and local families welcomed Wapikoni’s big production team into their homes.

“This collective, inspiring, admirable process resulted in a complex short film that addresses the way the Mapuche-Lafkenche (people of the ocean) observe, perceive and enter into a balanced relationship with the ocean” says Ariella Orbach, international coordinator of the project. “At the same time, the film emphasizes the lived experiences of Elders as a source of indigenous ways of life and, through visual and symbolic elements, speaks to the balance between human and environment, male and female, Elder and youth, past and future.” (Lafken Ñi Az the Ocean reveals its knowledge). This film also offered the perfect opportunity for some participants to practice animation techniques to re-create the 19th century events. 


click for Spanish and French version.

Animating history

The young filmmakers were also very interested in researching the story of several families from their communities, whose genealogy was influenced by a historical event: the shipwreck of a European boat on the Mapuche coast and the integration of the surviving women into Mapuche society. A second short film was made to give space for the telling of this event by two Elders, which was the result of an oral research process led by the youths.

On February 12th, 2016 almost 70 people squeezed into an overflowing room to watch the finished short films and encourage the young filmmakers. The team says the community screening demonstrated the continued interest of the families of the Aylla Rewe Budi territory in the Mapuche Filmmaking School and their support of the young participants’ creative process. The Wapikoni team says the energy in the room that night left them convinced that they will be back next year to continue sharing the adventures of this incredible project!

Adapted with permission from an article by Ariella Orbach.


Online activists are facing abuse from misogynists and paid troll armies, but asking for laws to protect us from online abuse may come back to haunt us.

The great freedoms offered for new voices, innovative media and human rights activism, goes hand-in-hand with real dangers on the online networking space, that was the subject of feisty discussion at the IAWRT biennial in New Delhi, India and is under scrutiny around the globe. The growth of online networking and media has complicated our understanding of media ethics, and of how to guarantee freedom of speech. It also muddies the issue of censorship and how it operates in many countries. 

By Nonee Walsh

It was the subject of feisty discussion at the IAWRT biennial in New Delhi, India, and is under scrutiny around the globe. Ilang Ilang Quijano, the editor of online Pinoy Weekly in the Philippines, was sued for libel early in her career for printing a well-documented story about the environmental and health impacts of aerial spraying on a banana plantation. Despite being dismissed by a lower court, she says an antiquated law was used to intimidate, harass and financially penalise her publication for many years. A new cyber-crime prevention act which was aimed at criminal activity continues to threaten free media as it still includes libel and online journalists can be jailed for 6-12 years.


However in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, she says “media killings are highest form of censorship.” Ms Quijano says of 174 journalist killings over recent decades there have only been 11 convictions and that is “only killers not the masterminds.” She believes the government wants to ensure no avenue for expression exists that is free from control by a rich and powerful elite.

In a very different country, Sri Lanka, Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, a human rights lawyer and columnist with the Sunday Times, says there was a similar story, where mass killings had journalists living with a chilling fear which lead almost to the complete annihilation of free media, making censorship redundant.

While she was among the women who were brave enough, as the Sri Lankan joke went, “had the balls,” to keep speaking out, Pinto-Jayawardena says tthe shutdown of the free voices in traditional media meant that the online space became the arena where momentum was gained to vote out the Rajapaksa government and replace it with a government promising more freedom.

However, six months after his election, President Maithripala Sirisena’s government has revived the Press Council – a body that can sanction media and imprison journalists. The move has been condemned by Reporters without Borders, amongst others.

Pictured left to right: Dr Anja Kovacsthe Director of the Internet Democracy Project in Delhi, Ilang Ilang Quijano and Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena.

In Malaysia, too, new cyber-offences were created in 2012, under reforms responding to some demands of media freedom campaigners. However, the controversial section 114A of the Evidence act. was also enacted, the government said, to protect against anonymous cyber-crime, such as threats and harassment. It makes the subscriber of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) prove that a certain statement was not published by him or her, and third parties such as search engines, discussion hosts and computer or mobile phone owners, are deemed to be publishers. Cirami Mastura Drahaman from Sunway University in Malaysia says the reversal of the burden of proof has “a chilling effect,” as they have to prove they were not publishers to avoid liability for defamation. She told a communications law conference at Melbourne University that it “bodes ill for netizens” as not knowing about publications (such as comments) is not a defence, and site operators are not given reasonable time to remove content.

The ‘Stop 114A campaign’ included an Internet Blackout Day coordinated by the Centre for Independent Journalism but the government was unmoved, and it is now law with numerus cases over social media posts coming to court

Online campaigns do have some power, a massive social media campaign on behalf of MaryJane Veloso, a trafficked Philippines woman on death row in Indonesia for alleged drug importing, is a good news story about online opportunities for human rights campaigns. One petition to have her released on gained over 250,000 signatures. However that is a salutatory lesson in both the successes and the dangers of the online space. Mary Jane Veloso was given a last minute reprieve in April this year, five years after her arrest, saved finally by a last minute appeal by the Philippines President Benigno Aquino.

Hatespeech  and violence

However Ilang Ilang Quijano says after Mary Jane Veloso’s mother criticised the Philippine government’s tardy response to her daughter’s plight, and did not thank it as a saviour, a large amount of online abuse ensued under the hashtag – firing squad for Celia Veloso. Ms Quano’s assessment was that the campaign was instigated by government trolls (schills) she calls them “paid troll armies.” 

It would appear that the decision by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, to publicise the Veloso abuse campaign, like similar decisions to publicise fatwahs, for example, in Pakistan, cannot meet the test of ethical journalism, which is proposed by the Ethical Journalism Network. Director Aiden White asks: “Who draws the red line – the frontiers of tolerance – between hate speech and free expression? “We argue that it should be drawn by journalists, motivated by humanity.” The network has devised a five point test which journalists could apply to judge whether reporting commentray is propogating hate speech:

*Positional Status of the speaker

*Reach and impact of the speech

*Real intention of the speech

*The content and form of the speech

*Economic and social and political context of the speech

“Online abuse or misogyny is the single most serious threat to journalism, and there is a need to return to the basic strengths of journalism, which is not free expression” Aiden White  says.“It is constrained expression, we operate in a framework of ethical values, we have public purpose and our form of expression is ‘other regarding’… We take into account, we consider the impact of what we do, what we say, what we broadcast and its impact on others. Social networking is self-regarding.”

The Ethical Journalism Network campaign for media, ‘Turning the page of Hate’ is being rolled out in Africa in partnership with many organisations, including IAWRT, and will extend to the Middle East and other countries. IAWRT’s Tanzania Chapter and the EJN held one workshop as part of that rollout, entitled: ‘Turning the Page of Hate in Africa; Putting Tolerance on the News Agenda,’ in May 2015. Ckick for EJN presentation. At the Dar es Salaam meeting, some sixty journalists  from countries including Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria, spoke about the real consequences of media dissemination of hate speech, such as murder, rape, and genocides in Kenya and Rwanda.

The participants closely examined the media standards which need to be applied to avoid media publicising hate speech or misinformation-information, which fuels division based on gender, ethnicity or religion. On a broader scale, the group also spoke of the need for decent journalist wages to mitigate against corruption and shared information about media restrictions under laws which need to be reformed, or the threats of violence perpetrated by authorities, which can exist even if laws do support media freedom.

Report is available here.  Pictured, Left to right: Rose Haji Mwalimu and Racheal Nakitare, IAWRT, Elisabeth Sewabe-Hansen, Norwegian Embassy, Dar es Salaam, Aidan White, Ethical Journalism Network. 

The IAWRT Kenya chapter is also working to address gender based technology based violence against women, participating in mapping technological violence against women, with the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet). The project is using the USHAHIDI crowdsourcing tools (ushahidi translates to “testimony” in Swahili, and was developed to map reports of post-election violence in Kenya in 2008). The global map is an initiative of TakeBackTheTech, which allows safe and secure reporting of cases of technology-related violence against women in Kenya, and around the world,The mapping out will contribute towards documenting the occurrence of such violence to bolster the lobbying for increased attention to this growing problem.

Host laws and digilantism

There are so many aspects to the online debate, and Dr Anja Kovacs, the Director of the Internet Democracy Project in Delhi, has pointed to the controvesy surrounding the providers of the online space, such as Facebook. One of its biggest markets is India, with 100 million users, and in the south-west state of Kerala, the story of how Preetha G Nair was removed from Facebook after she and supporters were subjected to a political campaign of sexualised bullying and harassment,  is one lesson on how the media multinational is failing to cope with the need to enforce consistent ethical standards across cultures More details here

Facebook had 1.55 billion monthly active users across the globe in the third quarter of 2015, more than half the world’s population. It next closest competitor is the Chinese social media. Facebook continues to expand, even planning to use drones to provide bandwidth in inaccessible areas such as the Philippines and Zambia, according to Mia Garlick, the Director of Policy and Communications for Facebook Australia and New Zealand. She told a conference, at the University of Sydney in Australia, that the organisation promotes “digital citizenship” which is not based on any country’s law, but “a community.”

At the September 2015 forum, GTFO – Empowered Users, Objective Violence and the governance of Social Media, she faced criticism about her organisation’s failure to remove hate speech material at the request of women users. Ms Garlick surprised many there, by saying that Facebook sets a higher bar if the person involved has a “public profile”. In one Australian case, feminist and writer Clementine Ford faced trolling abuse and threats after a provocative attack on a TV program which claimed that women were culpable victims of ‘revenge porn’ because they had taken photos which were later used to shame or threaten them. After reposting the threats and abuse that she received. she was banned from Facebook for ‘violating community standards’. Ms Ford has requested police action against her abusers, and has reported one abuser to her employers, but continues to be abused.

Women who take on sexism and misogyny online, have been particular targets. One of the more disturbing acts of digital violence directed against Canadian American cultural critic Anita Sarkesian reached disturbing heights with an interactive game encouraging users to digitally beat her up (pictured in the EJN presentation at the IAWRT biennial). However, the threat to Sarkesian and gaming developer colleagues, who criticised sexism and misogyny in the gaming industry, was real. It included doxing (revealing personal details such as their address) forcing some to flee their homes. Sarkesian’s ‘crime’ was to set up a website called Feminist Frequency which hosts a video web-series described as “an educational resource to encourage critical media literacy and provide resources for media makers to improve their works of fiction.” Many applaud her stance. The episode is known to many as the ‘gamergate’ controversy. The observation that online discussion of sexism or misogyny quickly results in disproportionate displays of sexism and misogyny, has become known as ‘Anita’s law’ in a list of patterns of behaviour experienced by women online.

Feminist digilantism

Frustration with inaction from platform managers can lead to a more personalised reaction, as well as re-posting abusive or threatening comments, some track down abuseers – a ‘feminist digilante’ response. One such case is that of Alanah Pearce, an Australian gaming journalist, based in the United States, who exposed the perpetrators of sexualised violent threats made against her, to their mothers. Whilst accepting that it may well be a reasonable response, Dr Emma Alice Jane from the University of New South Wales, is critical of the international media embracing it as the perfect solution to rape threats online. “…don’t worry about the police or the platform managers just go to the real source of authority – go to the mothers – take it back into the home, take it back into the private sphere, this is an individual problem, deal with it privately.” Dr Jane says this harks back to a time when feminists argued against the notion that rape and domestic violence and workplace harassment were private issues to be dealt with individually and domestically. Audio Interview here.

At the forum where I interviewed Dr Jane, the reality of Anita’s law became all too apparent. As the proceedings were live-cast and academics tweeted about the discussion, the reaction online was monitored by the Media and Communications Department, it tweeted “Interesting to see massive jump in conversation & negative terms with speakers on gendered hate”.(see graph,left)  

Global solutions?

This years UN report on cyber violence against women and girls says the threat of physical violence is a problem of pandemic proportion when one in three women will have experienced a form of violence in her lifetime: “and gendered cyber violence could significantly increase this staggering number .. as reports suggest that 73% of women have already been exposed to or have experienced some form of online violence.”

The answers are not going to be simple, or perhaps even global. As much as Facebook or or Weibo or Twitter or other mass platforms would like to have their own ideal sets of rules, to reduce their liabilities, they must not evade their reponsibility to protect their users from gender based online violence. However, Dr Anja Kovacs says the way forward requires care, given that laws  to protect safe online speech can be used to censor. “We need to think through what policies we want … it is important that we do not cede the online space, but we should not ask for laws that come back to haunt us.”  

Conference feature Speaking Truth to Power available Here.

Full conference report available here.


strategies crop_edited-1

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) the principal global intergovernmental body dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment, held its 60th meeting in New York in March 2016. In the lead up, IAWRT International board members spent a hectic six days attending forums, and presenting our event, Exploring strategies to eliminate gender inequality in the media.

CSW has taken a leading role in monitoring and reviewing progress and problems in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,since 1996. It also advocates for the mainstreaming of gender perspectives in all UN activities. In its main session, UN Member States agree on further actions to accelerate progress toward women’s enjoying their political, economic and social rights. The outcomes and recommendations of each session are forwarded to the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for follow-up. More details on its work is available here.

Non-government organisations, such as IAWRT can attend side events to the CSW, to engage with government delegations, and may organise parallel events outside the UN. The IAWRT’s event was one of a smal number on media and it concentrated on strategies to reverse women’s under-representation and the continued use of limited and often exploitative or damaging stereotypes.

Before that presentation, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, gave the opening remarks for the 2016 non-government organisations (NGO) CSW forum Consultative Day.  She said that despite some gains, challenges continue: including a lack of resources and often, access to basic resources.  She expressed concern about shrinking spaces for NGOs and Civil Society actors in countries where human rights were not upheld.

She also felt that many organisations were pushing in different directions and urged participants to be guided by the road map – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says that civil society groups have a fundamental role in assessing the local relevance of SDGs, improving data collection and monitoring, and denouncing actors who don’t follow the agenda.

However there is a growing recognition, at least amongst media researchers and NGO’s, that the omission of media and gender is a large shortcoming in the Sustainable Development Goals. Hence the importance  of the IAWRT parallel event, on practical efforts within the media to get rid of gender inequalityIt was held in a packed room at the UN Church Centre.

The Panellists were: Najiba Ayoubi the Director-general of Kilid media in Afghanistan, Gender Links CEO and Chair of The Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG), Colleen Lowe Morna (both pictured left) and Dr Carolyn M. Byerly, a Professor in the Department of Communications, Culture and Media Studies at Howard University (pictured right). The event was moderated by award winning journalist and IAWRT Norway Chapter head, Bibiana Dahle Piene.

Despite all the advocacy, lobbying and training, the fact remains that across the world, women are vastly underrepresented and misrepresented in the media at various levels.  The 2015 Global Media Monitoring Report estimates that if the current negative trend in gender equality in media continues, it would take 77 years before media equality is reached.

Opening discussions, Bibiana Dahle Piene, said that although women in Norway have taken up more important social, political and economic roles in society, they have continued to lose importance in the media. “In 2010, women constituted 19 percent of experts in the country, and at the same time, women made up 31 percent of news sources … five years on, women experts have risen by 1 percent, and women as media sources has dropped by 7 percent, within the same period.”

Dr Byerly, who is also co-founder of the Howard Media Group, says women have to challenge discrimination and feminist groups have to develop a new policy agenda on the media … she agreed with the suggestion of the moderator, that a big issue that should be given serious consideration, is gender becoming part of the curriculum in journalism programs. (Powerpoint of her presentation available below)

In a presentation entitled Gender and the Media: More pain, no gain?, Colleen Lowe Morna said women should be worried about gender and media not being clearly part of the Sustainable Development Goals, warning that it is a challenge to change attitudes, as the fight is against “the most powerful and the most evasive of ideologies – patriarchy” and there will be no success unless media is on side. She emphasized that women can only have voice and choice when they start being properly visible in the media (powerpoint presentation available below).

From the Afghanistan view-point, Najiba Ayubi said a starting point for much needed change lay in the fact that there are 90 TV stations in Afghanistan but not one is run by women.

“Women are mainly presenters and they are not involved in the content definition” she said, adding that security for journalists is a big problem. In Afghanistan she says the media space is still closed for women, the battle is also with a dominant social view that women’s role is said to be in the home.  Ayubi says 10% of women have left media in the latest upsurge of violence. The multiple award winning journalist has personally experienced a number of terrifying moments, including gunmen at her house, defamatory attacks in state-run media, and lawsuits by politicians.

A former IAWRT Vice President of IAWRT Bandana Rana attended, (pictured left) and contributed to discussion. Like Najiba Ayubi, she highlighted the challenge of cultural attitudes in working on violence against women and children in Nepal. People in Nepal she said, argued that what happens in the home is a private matter, but women were learning that they didn’t have to stay in abusive relationships.

She said when a boy is born, the family would “…cut a goat for celebration of the birth. When a girl is born … they cut a pumpkin”. She would like to see the birth of girls celebrated. Earlier, at the NGO consultative Day she had given a very powerful keynote speech, as one of two awardees of the UN/NGO CSW Women of Distinction Award.

In her earlier career as a TV journalist, she spoke about how she had failed to get women to talk about their domestic violence experiences. Even when she put the questions to a woman it was her husband that talked. Her practical solution would be to start very early in the morning to look for the women when they were fetching water alone. Only then she found that the women had much to share about their situation.

The IAWRT presented its Gender media monitoring report, which covered four continents and eight countries, parallel to last year’s CSW, and the IAWRT President, Gunilla Ivarsson, said this year’a session was about such making use of practical strategies. “Now is the time to go from words to action, to explore and share strategies – to go hands on for change” she said. (pictured left with moderator, Bibiana Dhale Piene, holding the 2015 report).

Board members also had an opportunity to view and discuss different media initiatives which aimed to witness injustice and empower women around the globe to gain an equal role in society. Presentations included: efforts to empower Kenyan women to use technology to report sexual violence or rape – Women and Technology: Effective video documentation of sexual violence; Developing an Islamic response to speak out against gender based violence; The Oscar winning film: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness – about an eighteen-year-old Saba woman in Pakistan sentenced to death by so-called honour killing; a panel ‘Empowering women to end hunger’ with delegates from Kenya, Israel, the Ukraine, Honduras, Bangladesh and Columbia; Refugees and displaced people, victims of terrorist groups where Nadia Murad Basee Taha a Yezidi woman and ISIL victim – gave her recommendations to the international community on strategies to women and girls exposed to a continuum of sexual violence and exploitation.

Other key themes discussed were the incessant issue of the trafficking of women and girls, and the importance of women’s participation in governing society. A Women in Parliament discussion concluded that quotas are really important to secure seats for women in parliaments. According to the UN Development Programme, when women have 30 per cent of the seats or more, parliaments start passing laws that favour gender equality.  However such elected women need to work twice as hard as men to keep their positions in power, so strong networks are needed so that they can secure competence building, once elected.      

Media is a powerful actor that can contribute to gender equality and peace. When media women have the space, they can tell important stories about women, and demonstrate leadership. Giving women more space is just what IAWRT is about!