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IAWRT President Violet Gonda joins important disccusions in her home country of ZImbabwe

IAWRT President Violet Gonda has been sharing her time and expertise, mainly as moderator, in key webinars during the COVID-19 pandemic and varying lockdowns in the world, especially to important discussions in her home country Zimbabwe.

The southern African country is facing a multi-layered crisis including massive corruption, gross human rights abuses, economic collapse, political challenges, food insecurity and a collapsing health delivery system in the times of COVID-19. Gonda, who is a freelance journalist based in the United Kingdom, is also collaborating with various pressure groups back home using virtual media platforms to help find a solution to the unfolding events in her country.

Among her efforts was a webinar by Zimbabwe Elections Support Network on the topic ‘Interrogating the Possibility of Conducting Elections in the COVID-19 Era’ was held on June 2.

‘Politics and Beyond: The Implications of the Mozambique Security Crisis for Zimbabwe was held on June 5 with Gonda as moderator.

On June 11, Gonda served as moderator for Sapes Trust Policy Dialogue Forum on the topic ‘Zimbabwe’s Deepening Crisis – what we have to do NOW!’ The discussions also tackled the proposals for all stakeholders talks and the establishment of a National Transitional Authority in Zimbabwe. The IAWRT President explained that her country has, over the last few months, witnessed an increasingly deepening crisis with growing political violence including arrests of journalists, abductions torture of opponents, intimidation of human rights lawyers, and coercion by the government. This has resulted in neighbouring South Africa sending envoys, and the African Union and the International Community issuing statements of concern. The panelists were representatives from civil society sectors. Watch the forum here.

Gonda said the new government under President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed to show that it’s different from the Mugabe regime and there is little evidence to show that this so-called ‘new dispensation’ has the capacity or the will to deal with the escalating range of crisis issues being faced. 

She added: “These Policy Dialogue public meetings are addressing not only of what needs to be done, but how it should be done to move the the country forward.”

What will it take to reach a Settlement in Zimbabwe?: Watch the livestream of the discussion here.

On June 16, Gonda served as moderator for Zimbabwe Election Support Network’s meeting on the topic ‘Contextualizing the Implications of Constitutional Amendment Bill No.2 on Zimbabwe’s Electoral Democracy. Panelists included gender experts, a Constitutional Law expert, a youth expert and the Committee Chairperson on Justice, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs.

On June 25, Gonda again served as moderator for Sapes Trust Policy Dialogue Forum on ‘Harnessing Zimbabwe’s Diaspora Towards the National Settlement.’ Watch the livestream of the discussion here:


She has also partnered with her country’s leading elections monitoring group the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network in a programme called ‘Making Elections Make Sense’ discussing the feasibility of holding elections amid concerns of protecting public health and the right to vote in the COVID-19 pandemic era.  The discussions also help contextualise the implications of various sections of the  Constitution on Zimbabwe’s electoral democracy.

The Zoom debates, which are streamed on Facebook and Youtube, have also been focusing on other key areas such as regional security in southern Africa where insurgents have unleashed a reign of terror in Cabo Delgado and the situation in Mozambique is now spiralling out of control. ‘Politics and Beyond: The Implications of the Mozambique Security Crisis for Zimbabwe and the region. Watch the livestream of the discussion here:



Gonda hails from Mutare, Manicaland, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean journalist Violet Gonda who has been in exile from Zimbabwe for the last 20 years, after she was barred from returning to her home country during former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s rule. She has been based in the UK and spent the time during the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.


See other discussions below on Zimbabwe and one on South Africa:

SAPES Trust Policy Dialogue Forums:

1. What will it take to reach a Settlement in Zimbabwe?: Watch the livestream of the discussion here.

2. South Africa’s Policy Towards Zimbabwe. A case of the tail wagging the dog, sheer incapacity, indifference or harvesting on a neighbour’s economic woes?: Watch the livestream of the discussion here.

3. Towards Constitutionalism & the Return of the Military to the Barracks: Watch the livestream of the discussion here.


ZESN public meetings:

1. Regulations of political parties in Zimbabwe. Watch the discussion here.

2. The Implications of Constitutional Amendment Bill No2 on Zimbabwe’s Electoral Democracy: Watch the livestream of the discussion here.

3. Interrogating the feasibility of conducting elections in the Covid-19 era: Watch the livestream of the discussion here.

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Elena “Lina” Tijamo was forcibly taken from her home in Bantayan, Cebu in the Philippines in the evening of June 13.

by Sarah De Leon

Elena, 58, is the program coordinator for sustainable agriculture FARDEC,  non-profit, non-government organization that offers paralegal and educational services to farmers facing land issues. She is also the Community Radio Coordinator of FARDEC in Bantayan Island, Cebu. It has a radio program, Radyo Sugbuanon in partnership with the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Philippines.

Suspected military elements—four armed masked men in civilian clothes accompanied by two women—held back family members while they covered Tijamo’s mouth with tape, tied her hands, and took her away. Elena remains missing after more than four days.

Elena’s sister Violeta Tijamo reported the incident at the police station.

Based on Violeta’s account, around 8:00pm after dinner of 13 June, 2020, all six members of the Tijamo household retired to their rooms to rest, except Elena who remained at the dinner table to work. Violeta went out of her room due to dogs barking and a commotion coming from outside. She saw two women toting pistols inside the house by the kitchen door holding Elena whose hands were tied behind her back and her mouth plastered by masking tape. An armed man was positioned in the front door at the sala, while another three armed men were positioned in the kitchen.

Violeta asked the men in Cebuano, “What are you going to do with my sister when she commited no offense?”

They heard one of the male perpetrators replied, “Her husband committed a major offense” and another was overheard saying “This house does not recognize a government.”

Elena and Violeta’s elderly parents, who were with them in the house that time and who are both deaf, was unaware of the incident when it happened.

FARDEC relayed that from the night Elena was taken, her family members received text messages instructing them not to contact the authorities and Elena would be able to go home later.

The following day, they received calls where they were able to speak to Elena who told them that she will be released if social media posts such as the one by Karapatan Central Visayas and news reports of her abduction such as the one by Rappler would be taken down.

Last May 24, Elena reported to the human rights group that a man claiming to conduct a survey for elderly beneficiaries of COVID-19 assistance visited her home but asked about her personal details instead. She later found out that the barangay had no knowledge of a survey.

The government returned Cebu to the ‘enhanced community quarantine’ protocol, also known as total lockdown, from June 16 and this has hampered the family and FARDEC’s search for Elena.

The incident happened while the much-protested “Anti-Terrorism Bill” in the Philippines is in the process of becoming law. The said bill was transmitted to President Rodrigo Duterte by Philippine Congress on June 9 and the Office of the President said it is undergoing review but Duterte is “inclined” to sign it.

The bill, fast-tracked from May 29 and approved in Congress three sessions later, was condemned by all quarters of Philippine society—media, schools, lawyers, church, business, celebrities, etc. for the broad definition of terrorism that may be used against critics. It also features an Anti-Terrorism Council made up of presidential appointees in the Cabinet who will have powers similar that to a trial court and a judge, such as designating terrorist tags and approving warrantless arrests. The bill also prescribes 14 to 24 days of warrantless arrest and detention that many found to be violative of the Philippine Constitution that allows only up to three days even during martial law when the writ of habeas corpus is suspended.

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Guilty verdict handed down on Monday morning, June 15

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), its more than 400 members and 14 country chapters, stands with Maria Ressa, Reynaldo santos, Jr., Rappler and Filipino journalists who in a few weeks’ time saw the shutdown of ABS-CBN, the railroading of the “terror bill” and a cyber libel conviction.

The journalism world was watching and awaiting the verdict to be handed down on the case against Rappler Executive Editor Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos, Jr. on the morning of June 15. The cyber libel guilty verdict carried the penalties of six months to six years of imprisonment, P200,000 in moral damages and P200,000 in exemplary damages. They will appeal the decision and were allowed to post bail. IAWRT is horrified and hurt by this latest blow to press freedom.

Today’s verdict sets a dangerous precedent not only for journalists but also for every Filipino online. The one-year prescription period of libel is extended to 12 years in cyber libel. The “theory of continuous publication” makes it possible for all online articles or posts to be evaluated for violations of the country’s Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (also known as the cybercrime law). Journalists and the Filipino people fought the passage of the law that included stiffer criminal penalties for cyber libel than the current libel on print and included also posts online on Facebook, Twitter or other platforms.

The odds are against journalists and press freedom. But journalists and media workers must fight back.

Journalists and media workers would be hard put to practice responsible journalism and to serve the public’s right to information amid impunity and tyranny. Journalists, media workers and the public must all heed the call to defend press freedom anywhere we are in the world.



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Women journalists are among those attacked or arrested while doing their job


The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) strongly condemns the targeting of journalists covering protests over George Floyd’s death in the United States of America (USA) and in other countries. Journalists, who are at the very core of democracy, are not only being prevented from reporting the happenings on the ground but are also being threatened, attacked, shot at with rubber bullets, sprayed with pepper spray and arrested.

IAWRT, an alliance of women in media, finds unacceptable the intentional attacks on fellow journalists. To name a few:

Linda Tirado, a freelance photographer, activist and author was shot in the left eye on May 29 while covering the street protests in Minneapolis. Doctors told her that she is not likely to recover her vision in that eye.

Nina Svanberg, a Swedish foreign correspondent in the US, was struck in the leg by several rubber bullets.

Susan Ormiston, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation journalist, was hit with a gas canister while covering the protests in the city.

Kaitlyn Rust and her team from WAVE 3 News, a local TV station in Kentucky, were struck with pepper balls by police while reporting live on air, despite following police instructions and staying behind police lines.

Ellen Schmidt and Bridget Bennett, reporting for Review-Journal were arrested at the Strip in Las Vegas, and released a day later only after having to post a $1,000 cash bond each.

The list is long and spares no media; radio, television, print or social media. Despite ensuring they are identifiable as journalists doing their job, over 100 media persons have been attacked.  These targeted attacks are appalling and are an attempt to stifle the press.

IAWRT President Violet Gonda said: “These are worrying targeted attacks on journalists covering the protests in the USA. Media organisations should be allowed to document and inform the public during these uncertain times without fear or favour.”

She emphasised the need to protect journalists and ensure their safety as they cannot be caught between fire from both ends – the protestors and the police.

Journalists have protection under the First Amendment of the US Constitution covering free speech. Where it gets blurred is that the right to freedom of the press is not different from the right to freedom of speech. Suffice it to say the media is not provided any special rights or privileges that are different from those of other citizens.

The current US administration has created an environment hostile to journalists. Calling the work of various journalists and media organizations ‘Fake News’ and then overwhelming the media with misinformation, has created an uncertain environment that cannot recognize legitimate journalists at the protest marches, even though they are well identified. This results in the lack of respect for journalists. The cornerstone of a robust democracy is a well-informed electorate, which seems impossible in this culture of hostility against the news media.

IAWRT expresses solidarity with our fellow journalists at this critical juncture, where the world is fighting not only a pandemic that has claimed so many lives, but also racial tensions, violence against minorities, and oppressive measures against people during lockdowns and ushering the “new normal.”

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It has been an eventful 60 plus days of lockdown in India – one of the world’s largest democracies.


COVID-19 cases have now reached almost 170000 despite a very strict lockdown.


by Nupur Basu



Besides the fear of what the pandemic can do if it spreads through its 1.3 billion population, there has sadly been a concerted dilution of  rights for different segments of the Indian society. Two segments have been hit badly – the poorest of the poor ‘migrants’ (migrants are basically rural people who work in the cities largely in the informal sector) and the media.



Media intimidation:

Let me highlight regarding the media first. Right from the time the lockdown was announced by the Indian government to prevent the spread of Covid-19, there was an attempt to curb the rights of the media – print, television and digital.


The government of India actually appealed before India’s highest court to make it mandatory for the media to not publish anything related to the pandemic in the country, without getting it cleared from the government. In other words, it was a naked attempt to censor the media. The Supreme Court, luckily, did not grant this. But, the court came out with a rider for the media . It suggested that every story a journalist did on Covid, should also carry the official version.


I am sharing here the link to a piece I wrote on this subject recently. Media’s trial and tribulations in times of deadly coronavirus https://thefederal.com/analysis/medias-trial-and-tribulations-in-times-of-deadly-coronavirus/


In the early days reports of high handedness by the police against journalists who were on the field covering different aspects of the pandemic, began coming in thick and fast. There were reports from the nation’s capital, Delhi and in down south Hyderabad of journalists being assaulted by the police as they were on the field doing their coverage. A journalist from a Hindi news channel in Delhi was punched and hit despite showing the police his press card which proved he was part of the exempted essential services. This drew instant international condemnation from media watch organisations like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).


“Journalists are exempted from the ongoing lockdown in India because they provide vital news and information about the coronvirus outbreak,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher, in New York. “Indian police must cease harassing and attacking them, and authorities must investigate attacks against journalists and ensure that those responsible are held to account.”


Soon there were First Information Reports (FIRs) being filed by the government and the police against journalists who were doing exposés on how politicians were breaking the lockdown laws, how food and other relief was not reaching the poor who had been hit the hardest in this pandemic.


An FIR was filed against Siddharth Vardarajan, Editor of the popular news website, The Wire, by the chief minister of India’s biggest state, Uttar Pradesh, for a tweet the editor had put out critiquing his administration.


Other cases against journalists kept filtering in from different quarters including from Gujarat (the home state of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi) where Dhaval Patel, editor of Face of Nation news website was charged with sedition and spreading false news amidst COVID-19. Patel had published a piece suggesting that the chief minister of Gujarat was going to be replaced for “mishandling” the pandemic. Gujarat was among the states in India reporting high corona virus positive cases and also high mortality rates.


Reports of legal cases against reporters covering the pandemic up and down the country also kept filtering in. The cases filed ranged from the outdated colonial sedition law to violation of provisions of Disaster Managment Act. Sedition cases against journalists could end up with them getting a life term in jail. Under the Disaster Management Act it could attract a two- year jail term. Cash fines were also going to be imposed. Journalists merely doing their job ended up with cases being foisted on them simply because what they were reporting was unpalatable to the government. There were cases from Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Mumbai, Tamil Nadu and even off the Indian mainland, from the Andaman and Nicobar islands.


In mid-April, columnist and human rights defender Gautam Navlakha was arrested by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) under a draconian law of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and various sections of the Indian Penal Code.  At a time when CPJ had put out a worldwide call to governments to release journalists being held in prisons, 65 year-old Navlakha was bunged in Delhi’s high security prison, the Tihar Jail and then a month later, suddenly shunted by train to a prison in Maharashtra which had actually had COVID-19 cases and even a reported COVID-19 death.


 “Sending Gautam Navlakha to jail at any time would be unjust and a clear effort to silence his critical writing. But for the Supreme Court and Indian authorities to insist on sending him to jail in the middle of a pandemic goes against their own directives and is a matter of life or death,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher, in New York before his arrest. “Journalism should not amount to a death sentence. Indian authorities should allow Navlakha to remain free and stop pursuing charges against him.”  


The CPJ appeal had fallen on deaf ears with authorities in India. Navlakha who wrote for the News click website had told CPJ that he believes he was being targeted for his work as a journalist and a human rights activist. His imprisonment evoked criticism from human rights organisations like Amnesty India, Human Rights Watch and People’s Union of Democratic Rights (PUDR). A letter from the chair of the European Parliaments sub-committee on Human Rights has written to India’s Home Minister expressing concern about Navlakha’s arrest and that of other human rights defenders saying that by its actions India had clearly violated the UN’s international human rights standards.


Media job losses:

Besides facing serious hurdles for merely doing their job, India’s journalists have also been facing huge job losses in the midst of this pandemic. In the last 60 days there has been a virtual bloodbath in the newspapers and television channels with large scale retrenchment of journalists, media workers and other employees.


First it was the refusal of newspaper vendors to distribute the papers as soon as the corona virus pandemic broke, which hit the industry badly. Then the advertisements shrunk – both government and private. The future looked bleak and managements decided that journalists were dispensable to tide over the financial crises. While some organisations decided on salary cuts, others simply asked the journalists not to come to work from the following day.


“[COVID-19] and the lockdown is being used as a pretext to sack journalists and other media employees – this is particularly true of the newspaper industry and is also happening in electronic media..it is very disgusting that they should have used this as an ‘opportunity’ to downsize specially when journalists cannot get together and protests on the streets –the pretext for the retrenchment is loss of advertisement and fall in circulation – although many media companies have substantial cash reserves and should not have ditched their employees at this time to downsize specially when so many reporters and camera crew are out in the field risking their lives to get the news out..” Sujata Madhok, General Secretary , Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) told IAWRT .


Even as I write this copy there is news that over 130 journalists and media professionals have been sacked in one of India’s most prominent English dailies – The Hindustan Times.



Testing positive:

Besides attempts at censorship, legal cases, arrests and job losses, journalists covering the pandemic have also been victims of the corona virus. One television channel alone is said to have over four dozen COVID-19 positive employees.



Migrant workers – a humanitarian crises in India.

I started the piece by saying that the pandemic had dealt a double blow to two segments – migrant workers and media. If the challenges have been difficult for the media , what the poor migrant workers have been through in the last 60 days has been absolutely catastrophic.


The sudden lockdown triggered a huge humanitarian crisis with millions of poor workers who had come to the Indian metros to earn a livelihood. Overnight they found they had no work in the cities and have no way to get home as trains and buses were off the roads. What ensued was a painful journey by the migrants – in the age group spanning between 1 year old to 70 year old, including pregnant women walking from anywhere between 300 to 1200 miles without food or water to reach home. Many died enroute (the estimated number of dead are over 600) collapsing with heart attacks, dehydration, run over by trains on rail tracks, killed on the roads by passing trucks and buses. The migrant crises is still unfolding before our eyes.



Our IAWRT India Chapter members have been actively involved in multiple ways in combating the crises in our country. Two veteran IAWRT members shared what the lockdown has symbolised for them.  


By Padmaja Shaw : (former Board member)

India is facing a dual crisis on account COVID-19. The virus itself and the tragedy of millions of poor migrant labourers caught in different parts of the country without wages, food and shelter. An already marginalised section of the population is now driven to desperation and most of them are making frantic efforts to go back to the security of their home to be near their loved ones till the crisis is over. Every city in the country and villages are seeing thousands of people marching on the roads attempting to walk thousands of kilometres to their homes in the absence of any form of public transport.


IAWRT and the members of India chapter have been helping the migrants with food, shelter, transportation and leading fund-raising initiatives and also coordinating relief activities actively. Many members in Delhi , Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata have been in the forefront of relief operations. Some of the members are attempting to document the experiences of the migrants through print, electronic media and filming. The crisis of the migrant population has overtaken the crisis of the virus by its magnitude.


What the near future holds in terms of community transmission is unknown. The IAWRT community in India will stand by to contribute to relief work in whatever way it can.


By Samina Mishra : (current Board member)

There had already been stuff written about living under lockdown from other places when the lockdown was first announced In India. But in all that I was reading, there was very little space for children’s voices – as is the case usually. Children are mostly on the margins when it comes to listening to them, it is expected that they will listen rather than be listened to. So I decided to start an art project for children that would give them a chance to express themselves while doing different kinds of art. Each day, I would post an exercise and the children would have 24 hours to do it and send in their work.


Anyone between the ages of 8 and 15 could participate but some enthusiastic parents helped even their 6 and 7 year olds to participate, and one grown-up also persisted in doing it 🙂 The exercises varied from writing poetry, taking photographs, recording a soundscape, shooting an interview with a grown-up and even making a puppet. The prompts were always around the lockdown, so the children got an opportunity to think about what their experience of it was like. We had some dedicated children who did all 21 days of the first phase of the lockdown, some were late entrants and some were erratic. But we have created a substantial archive of children’s art around the lockdown. These are of course children from a certain class context – access to the internet, English-speaking, urban.


So later in the lockdown I felt it was also important to try and reach children who had no access or limited access to the internet and so I began recording stories for children, for Archana’s community radio station, Radio Mewat. 


The Lockdown Art Project submissions were shared everyday on Facebook and Instagram, at these links: 




By Archana Kapoor, IAWRT International Board Member

Radio Mewat broadcasts the stories and then also puts them up on Soundcloud so, I share them for others to use. I have also shared the recordings on WhatsApp with a couple of library projects in Gurgaon and Goa for children to access them on the phone.


I have been very careful about not going out since the corona virus outbreak in Delhi because I live with my parents who are both in the high-risk category. But as someone whose practice depends so much on interacting with people and being on location, it has been frustrating. Projects like these have helped me to feel connected in some way and not completely locked down.