0508 iawrt k mentorship

50 mentees take part in the Fourth Edition of the Female Journalists Mentorship Programme

By Mercy Njoroge


Behind many a success story is a fantastic mentor, someone to set you on the right path and give you sage advice in pursuit of a great career in the fore years.


For the last three years, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Kenya chapter has mentored 100 female university students pursuing journalism.


The mentees, who have been paired with mentors, receive guidance, expertise and professional knowledge from an experienced perspective. The mentees have received firsthand knowledge on topical issues such as safety of female journalists, digital security, leadership, practicing journalism in the digital era, news writing among others.


The programme has so far achieved remarkable success by enabling the young mentees get their articles published in mainstream local newspapers such as the Daily Nation, Standard, Taifa Leo and The Star. This is no mean feat!


In addition, some mentees have gotten opportunities to intern in mainstream media houses, while some have exceeded the expectation of their supervisors, earning themselves permanent employment.  


Raylenne Kambua, an alumna of Maseno University and a beneficiary of the programme, says Iawrt mentorship motivated her to explore beyond the everyday journalism but also aspire to be a key stakeholder and decision-maker in the industry programme.


“Currently, I am interning at the Kenya Editors Guild. I am eternally grateful to the mentorship programme that gave me access to the mentors, who are accomplished women in media. Their guidance and constant encouragement shaped my perception on the journalism career and now I am already meeting the goals I set and mentoring my colleagues,” says Ms Kambua, a mentee for the 2020 cohort.


Lydia Kwamboka from Moi University says the IAWRT mentorship programme has positively impacted her career in ways she could not envision.


“Through this mentorship programme, I received a health reporting grant which was offered by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and three of my stories were published in Taifa Leo,” says Ms Kwamboka.

Florence Gege, who recently graduated from Maseno University.


She is also an alumna of the mentorship programme and says she has been inspired to aim higher and she believes in herself and her ability to surmount challenges in her career. 


“I am more knowledgeable on how to navigate the media industry as a rookie and how to fast-track my ascent in the media industry upholding integrity and diligence,” says Ms Gege.


Throughout the programme, the 12 mentors from different media houses have been keeping themselves abreast with the development of former and current mentees through constant communication and physical meetings.


Last year, when the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic broke out, the programme had to make a dynamic shift and quickly adapt the virtual mode of communication. Thanks to the digital space, the programme ran smoothly through bi-weekly webinars, Zoom meetings and video calls that enabled it to achieve its goals.


IAWRT Kenya chapter chairperson Josephine Karani says the Covid-19 pandemic revolutionized the programme, broadening its scope and venturing into unchartered waters of the digital space.


“The year 2020 tossed us into deep waters and we had to learn to maneuvre and achieve the goals of the programme. We swiftly organized webinars to connect and tackle diverse topics. This was not only a learning moment for all of us but it brought to the fore the need to re-invent ourselves and adapt with the times. Today, as the situation keeps improving, we have incorporated virtual as well as physical meetings while strictly observing the Covid-19 safety protocols,” says Ms Karani, the programme coordinator.


She adds that the mentorship programme has achieved tremendous growth and created interest from other universities in the country.  


On May 9th 2021, IAWRT launched the Fourth edition of the Female Journalists Mentorship programme at a two-day event held at Bruckenhust Hotels and Conferences in Limuru.


At the end of the one-year programme, 50 students from Maseno University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), Masai Mara University, Moi University and Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) will graduate becoming more enlightened and skilled as they get into the media industry.


Former IAWRT President Rachael Nakitare, also the programme coordinator, has expressed confidence from the success stories told by the mentees. She acknowledges that the programme continues to equip the young women and sharpen their understanding of the industry.


The programme is funded by the United States Embassy in Kenya.







About Mercy Njoroge

The writer is a gender expert and currently works as a Gender Sub Editor at the Daily Nation. She is also an alumna of the WAN-IFRA Women in News, African Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Initiative and the IJNet programme. She is a member of IAWRT and has 12 years’ experience in the mainstream media in Kenya.


Photos from IAWRT Kenya


one boat fi

On press freedom, ‘information as a public good’ and misinformation and disinformation

One Boat is a forum page that is a library of hundreds of live and recorded contemplations, meditations, and interviews.


IAWRT USA President Sheila Dallas-Katzman (USA/Jamaica) and community development professional Howard Katzman (USA), former IAWRT President Frieda Werden (Canada), and IAWRT Communication Officer Lady Ann Salem (Philippines) discuss press freedom in an online chat for One Boat: International Chaplaincy for Covid times.


One Boat is a go-to resource for those seeking enlightened, thoughtful, powerful reflections for social justice, peacemaking and contemplation of loving kindness at this time.


What is press freedom? What does UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day theme ‘information as a public good’ mean? How do these concepts mean to the public? These are some questions raised in the conversation.  


They also talk about misinformation and disinformation during the pandemic—that many groups have dubbed as infodemic. Salem distinguished misinformation as false information most likely to be passed along innocently, like the myths about Covid-19 cure shared in group chats and online posts when the pandemic just began. Disinformation, on one hand, is malicious and intentional spread of false information, usually to achieve a certain end.


They also catch up on Salem’s situation. She was arrested on December 10, 2020 on planted evidence and police trumped-up charges after being red-tagged in a December 1 Senate hearing, part of media attacks and political persecution in the Philippines. The charges against her were dismissed on February 5 and she was released on March 5 after almost 3 months of incarceration.


Sheila Katzman valued the importance of the conversation for World Press Freedom Day, as journalists from IAWRT’s own network have suffered attacks or threats in the past months up to present. Freedom of the press and the safety of journalists is in jeopardy in many countries. These situations also put a strain on the public’s right to information.


The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that in 2020, the number of journalists killed in retaliation for their reporting more than doubled, with Mexico and Afghanistan seeing the largest number of killings.


According to CPJ, the number of journalists jailed for their reporting in 2020 reached the highest level since the organization began keeping track, with the People’s Republic of China, Turkey, and Egypt imprisoning the most reporters last year. In Russia, authorities continue to restrict independent reporting, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.




In this conversation:


Sheila Dallas-Katzman

Current President of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) USA chapter, Chair of New York City for the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a facilitator for workshops aimed at dissecting racist beliefs and behavior using sociodrama and theatre of the oppressed methodologies to enable self-reflection and engender behavioral change through action methods. 




Frieda Werden

Co-founder and current series producer of WINGS: Women’s International News Gathering Service, a weekly radio program by and about women around the world that is distributed free to community radio stations in several countries.  Her other experience includes work with publishing, public radio networks, community radio and TV, the Texas Women’s History Project,  and the Foundation for  a Compassionate Society.  She is a former President of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, and former North America Vice President of l’Association Mondiale des Radiodiffuseurs Communautaires (AMARC).  She lives in Canada.




Howard Katzman

International and domestic community development professional with experience managing projects, promoting dialogue, empowering communities in Africa, the Caribbean, and New York City, using communications and community organizing techniques. Member of NYC4CEDAW Steering Committee (Policy and Strategy) since 2014.




Lady Ann Salem

Lady Ann Salem finished Broadcast Communication at the University of the Philippines. She served as executive director of Tudla Productions, producing social documentaries from 2008 to 2014. She is one of the founders of online publication Manila Today and served as its editor since 2014. She is currently one of 15 National Directors of National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.





Excerpts from the Report

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Ms. Dubravka Šimonović looks to harmonize national criminal laws and systems and practices with international human rights standards in criminalizing and prosecuting rape.


“The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, in her thematic report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2021, addresses States’ responsibility to criminalize and prosecute rape as a grave and systematic human rights violation and a manifestation of gender-based violence against women, in line with international human rights standards,” introduced the publication of the report online. 


“Rape is a violation of a range of human rights, including the right to bodily integrity, the rights to autonomy and to sexual autonomy, the right to privacy, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, women’s right to equality before the law and the rights to be free from violence, discrimination, torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment,” the report cited.


The aim of the report is to support and encourage a process of harmonization of national criminal laws and systems and practice with international standards on rape and sexual violence in both peacetime and during conflicts.


A questionnaire on criminalization and prosecution of rape was completed by member states, national human rights institutions, UN entities and legal mechanisms and civil society organizations to survey the definition and scope of criminal law provisions, prosecution and data on rape in various countries.  


For this, the Special Rapporteur received 207 submissions to her questionnaire on the criminalization and prosecution of rape, covering 105 States across all regions. Responses were received from 46 Governments, 19 national human rights institutions and 142 other entities, comprising civil society organizations, international organizations, academia and others. Through this, gaps in the criminalization and prosecution of rape at the national level and recommendations for its prevention.


The report noted how international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law on rape have advanced significantly over the past few decades, in independent yet interrelated processes resulting in advanced standards on the criminalization and prosecution of rape.


Here are some of them:

  • Rape, as a form of discrimination and gender-based violence against women, is specifically mentioned by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in its general recommendation No. 19 (1992) on violence against women, in which it refers to rape as a manifestation of violence against women in the family
  • The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first universal international instrument that provided a definition of violence against women, included “rape” and “marital rape” as forms of violence in its article 2.
  • The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, of 1993, established that eliminating violence against women was a human rights obligation of States, and that rape and sexual violence in armed conflict were violations of the fundamental principles of international humanitarian and human rights law.
  • The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, of 1995, recognized rape as a manifestation of violence in the family and in the community, and the systematic practice of rape in conflict as a deliberate instrument of war, constituting a war crime.


However, the report noted how these international standards have not been fully incorporated at the national level. States criminalize rape using different definitions (based on force or on lack of consent), protecting different persons (only women or all persons), including or excluding marital rape, covering different types of penetrations, prescribing different aggravating and mitigating circumstances, setting different lengths of sentences, prescribing ex officio or ex parte prosecution of rape, and providing or not providing at all for different statutes of limitation for its prosecution.


Additionally, their implementation is influenced by the surrounding general context of different forms of discrimination and gender-based violence against women, myths and gender-based stereotyping on rape by the media and the criminal justice system.


All these factors contribute to the fact that rape is frequently not reported. If rape is reported, it is seldom prosecuted; if prosecuted, the prosecution is rarely pursued in a gender sensitive manner and often leads to very few convictions, the revictimization of survivors and high attrition rates, resulting in a normalization of rape, a culture of rape or silence on rape, stigmatization of victims and impunity for perpetrators.


Some of the recommendations of the report include:

  1. States should criminalize rape using a definition of rape that covers all persons, includes marital rape and all acts of penetration of a sexual nature, and explicitly includes lack of consent at its centre. Aggravating and mitigating circumstances should be revisited and aligned with human rights standards.
  2. Prosecution should be pursued ex officio. Statutes of limitation should be abolished for rape in times of peace or conflict, or, at the very least, child victims should be able to report rape after reaching adulthood. Evidentiary rules of prosecution should significantly change to decrease impunity for perpetrators and increase the rate of prosecution, while protecting victims from revictimization.
  3. States should repeal other laws that discriminate against women, which directly or indirectly contribute to legal gaps and stereotypes in the criminalization and prosecution of rape. States should abolish any provisions that criminalize consenting sexual relations between adults, such as adultery, zina (illicit sexual relations) and same sex relations, and those that criminalize abortion in cases of rape.
  4. States should provide adequate services and support to victims of rape, including rape crisis centres, protection orders and interim relief measures in the context of both peace and conflict, including reparations to victims, in accordance with international human rights standards and reports.


Read the report here: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/SR/RapeReport/governments/philippines.pdf


Find the submissions to the survey from member states, national human rights institutions, UN entities and legal mechanisms and civil society organizations here: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRVAW.aspx

istanbul convention

Turkey’s withdrawal ushered in Convention’s 10th anniversary

The Istanbul Convention is the first international legally binding instrument to combat violence against women and domestic violence.

May 11, 2021 was the 10th anniversary of the Council of Europe (COE) Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. It was opened for signature 10 years ago in Istanbul, Turkey, thus the name Istanbul Convention.


The Istanbul Convention aims at ensuring essential legal protection to women and girls across the world. It builds on the notion that violence against women is a violation of human rights. It characterizes violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination. The Convention urged countries to exercise due diligence when preventing violence, protecting victims and prosecuting perpetrators.


The treaty also established a series of offenses characterized as violence against women, and urges states which ratify the Convention to criminalize several offenses, such as psychological violence, stalking, physical violence, sexual violence, rape, all engagement in non-consensual acts of a sexual nature, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced abortion and forced sterilization. Convention also states that sexual harassment must be subject to criminal or other legal sanction, and also targeted crimes committed in the name of “honour.”


Commitment and criticisms

Thirty-three COE countries have now ratified the Istanbul Convention, which came into force in 2014. Twelve more have signed but not yet ratified, the oldest among them are Ukraine (2011) and United Kingdom (2012) and latest to sign among them are Moldova (2017) and Armenia (2018). Two countries, Russia and Azerbaijan, have taken no action.


After 10 years, some governments have withdrawn, such as Turkey, or threatened to withdraw from the convention, such as Poland. Others have refused to ratify it despite soaring reports of domestic violence during Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner globally. The pandemic increased risk factors for violence against women, with the UN Women calling it the Shadow Pandemic.


In 2018, the COE addressed concerns or statements that the Convention is trying to impose a certain lifestyle or interfere with personal organization of private life, and said that it only seeks to prevent violence against women and domestic violence.


Criticisms to the Convention also include the definition of gender as a social construct. The Turkish presidency blamed the LGBT community for its withdrawal, “the Istanbul Convention, originally intended to promote women’s rights, was hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality – which is incompatible with Turkey’s social and family values. Hence, the decision to withdraw.”


In the Convention’s purpose, gender is defined as “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.”


In the Convention’s 10th anniversary, the European Union (EU) High Representative Josep Borrell said the EU stays committed to working together with the COE to promote the standards and objectives set out in the Istanbul Convention. He also affirmed that the EU will continue to be at the forefront of efforts towards real gender equality.


EU Commissioner Věra Jourová signed the Convention on June 2017 and has yet to ratify the Convention.


Turkey’s withdrawal

Turkey became the first country to sign this convention and ratify it in its parliament. However, it was announced on March 20 this year that Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided that Turkey would withdraw from the Istanbul Convention.


The COE entered Turkey’s denunciation of the Convention on March 22, and will enter into force on July 1. Turkey is the only one so far who have withdrawn from the convention, also after signing in 2011 and ratifying it in 2012.


Locally and internationally, the decision to withdraw was viewed as a setback for women’s rights.


International reaction to Turkey’s withdrawal was generally a call for the Turkish government to reconsider. COE  and European Union (EU) leaders, UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups, UN Women, and U.S. President Joseph Biden were among those that were alarmed by the decision or found it disappointing, while some called for the reversal of the decision.  


UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Dubravka Šimonović called Turkey’s decision “a very worrying step backwards. It sends a dangerous message that violence against women is not important, with the risk of encouraging perpetrators and weakening measures to prevent it.”


CEDAW Committee Chair Acosta Vargas noted, “As a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, a sister instrument to the Istanbul Convention, I would welcome a dialogue with Turkey to discuss the importance of the Istanbul Convention for working together on the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence against women at the national, regional and international levels.”


Both called on Turkey to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the convention.


“We join those urging the Government of the Republic of Turkey to continue protecting and promoting the safety and rights of all women and girls, including by remaining committed to the full implementation of the Istanbul Convention, which builds on the standards enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as well as its general recommendations and case law,” said the UN Women in a statement on Turkey’s withdrawal.


Many women groups from the country found the decision “taken by one man” unlawful since it was a decision of the parliament that had ratified the Convention in 2011.


To many women’s group in the country, such decision does not inspire confidence amid the forbidding situation of women in the country. Local reports in Turkey noted at least three women are killed and dozens of women are injured every day.


Thousands of women have taken to the streets chanting “Istanbul Convention saves lives” and “We don’t accept one man’s decision.”






Media consultant and Media rights advocate


Nankwanga Eunice Kasirye or Eunice to colleagues said she started to practice journalism as soon as she finished her ordinary diploma level course. Going to journalism school was a passion for her.


She is currently a private content producer and media consultant. She also does media rights advocacy with a niche on female journalists’ rights.


Eunice believes that the media in her country, generally, has helped in guiding public perceptions and national formulation. 


In that respect, she said, “I am proud of a pool of journalists that I have trained and mentored into responsible journalists despite the challenges that associate with the profession in the country. I have contributed to deliberate and intentional efforts to uplift the pride of a female journalist, finding space for women content in all spaces where I have had a chance to serve as a journalist.”


Eunice and IAWRT

Current IAWRT International Board Secretary Eunice became part of IAWRT in 2009. The Board Secretary she succeeded, Sarah Nakibuuka, also from Uganda, introduced Eunice to IAWRT.


Since then, Eunice has joined a handful of IAWRT activities. In 2013, she participated in the Regional Workshop on Turning the Hate Page. Eunice also joined the Regional Meeting in Nicaragua in 2014, and the Biennial in South Africa in 2016. She also helped hosted the Regional Meeting in Uganda in 2019, just as she became the newly-elected chapter head of IAWRT Uganda.


“IAWRT has given me global exposure and networking through international physical representation and the global membership presence which creates a connection with multiple cultural experiences and opportunities,” said Eunice.


She also became part of the Gender Mainstreaming Project, one of IAWRT’s enduring programs, advocating for stories by women for or on women, and women becoming part of decision-making bodies and leadership posts in the boardroom.


“The Association has offered a platform for career progress and self-esteem through global and local representation,” Eunice shared.


She took her commitment to IAWRT further by running for the post of Secretary in the 2020 Board Elections and won.


In her term as Secretary, Eunice hopes to contribute to the “revival of members and chapters and the interest and vibrancy in the association.”


She also wants to re-emphasize members’ networking and collaboration.


Helping women journalists

Eunice became part of the mentorship project of female journalists in her country, where she said a number have successfully benefitted from the project. It was one of IAWRT Uganda’s programs.


Why the need for mentoring? IAWRT Uganda, in the Gender Mainstreaming Project, has identified obstacles that keep more women from taking up journalism courses or eventually pursuing a career in journalism or excelling in their workplace. Some of these include the lack of opportunities and challenges, coupled with cases of abuse from co-workers or even news sources.


“In my country there is a lot of self-pity and sexual exploitation among female journalists by the male senior,” Eunice shared.


(Read: Uganda Re-discover to re-impose


IAWRT Uganda actively took part in the annual observance of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. In one forum, Eunice highlighted the vital role the media has in raising awareness of GBV by setting the agenda with the power to dictate public perception.


“The female journalists also face intrigue and sabotage among each other in the quest to survive at a job,” shared Eunice.


Eunice advocated that women journalists support one another, as this will be another approach to attaining positive portrayal of women in the media. She also challenged women journalists in her country to desist from trivial differences, backstabbing, intrigue and blackmail but concentrate on building a formidable professional, reliable and objective force to make, enforce and oversee critical decisions that affect the space of a woman in the media.


(Read: Mobilizing against gender violence


IAWRT Uganda’s findings on the Gender Mainstreaming Project also showed how even when women become the leaders in their newsrooms, the culture is to defer to their male counterparts, despite them being younger or more inexperienced.


The chapter decided to develop a Uganda Gender Media Guide.


(Read: Uganda developing gender media guide)


When the pandemic hit and lockdowns were enforced in 2020, Eunice wrote about the situation of female journalists. She reported that freelance or women journalists are let go over their male counterparts when media companies had to operate at half budget or downsize.


Capping all these efforts, Eunice said she would love to be able to establish a more stable and self-reliant one-stop  capacity building centre for female journalists in her country.


Not an easy task to be a woman journalist

What Eunice considers her biggest challenge is one of what she and IAWRT Uganda has identified to be barriers to women journalists’ success in her country.


“Societal negative stereo typing of career women, I have been so criticized for continuous improvement of my career, society labels me as ‘big-headed and insubordinate’ to masculinity,” Eunice shared.


Women teaming up with other instigators of negative portrayal of women efforts and labelling the women achievers as perverts has been her own personal challenge in this line of work.


“Achievers are not basic, they never settle for anything just because it is available, they create own legacy and stand in the space regardless of who supports or doesn’t support her cause,” insisted Eunice.


And Eunice will persist.


“Female journalists can receive the career respect they deserve and also sit on the decision table with confidence and pride. They ought to be respected by their actions and word, boldness and confidence comes with reliability,” she affirmed.


0514 michelle

Dr. Michelle Ferrier of Trollbusters.com told IAWRT more about this project.

TrollBusters is seeking to build the database with other resources available from civil society to address the harms and continuing hostile environment for journalists.


Trollbusters is working in conjunction with the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) to compile a global resource guide of organizations that are assisting journalists to combat online harassment and protect journalists’ voices and freedom of expression.


“The Global Safety Resource Hub is a database of professional and nongovernmental organizations supporting journalists and their safety. We have provided geographic listings, program information and contact information to organizations who are providing direct support, coaching, policy and tech strategies to journalists,” Dr. Michelle Ferrier, founder of TrollBusters.com, shared.  


The goal is to create location-specific guidelines on support for journalists experiencing online abuse. We will be including resources from more than 57 countries around the globe including the U.S., the European Union, the U.S.S.R. and other geographies.


Dr. Ferrier said the resource guide is designed to direct journalists to organizations in their geography who can help them to navigate the physical and legal threats that accompany online threats.

TrollBusters is the project designer and host. They received initial support from the OSCE to develop the database in 2017 and continue to build the resources for the tool.


Trollbusters is collecting country-specific recommendations for organizations, projects, research centers, technologies and other resources designed to support journalists in digital security, psychological support, financial assistance, legal and other resources. To submit recommendations, go to this link.


Dr. Michelle Ferrier is a member of IAWRT USA chapter.





IAWRT World Press Freedom Day statement 2021

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television gathered for an online protest on World Press Freedom Day 2021 to respond to so many human rights violations worldwide that put the lives of journalists at risk.

Our network has not been exempted from these violations. Here are some inhumane acts that some of our members have experienced

·       On December 10, 2020, journalist and IAWRT member Malalai Maiwand, and her driver, were killed in Afghanistan.

·       On the same day, Lady Ann Salem, our Communications Officer was arrested on possession of firearms and explosives trumped up charges. After almost three months, she was released after the court dismissed the charges as baseless and inconsistent.

·       Journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, IAWRT Philippines member is still in jail since February 7, 2020, arrested in a similar fashion and detained on similar charges as Icy was.

·       Several IAWRT members are working in countries reeling from war or grappling with the pandemic, both conditions have impeded or have been consciously used to restrict their duty of finding out and reporting the truth

With the steep rise in the attacks on journalists and a weakening in regulations protecting freedom of expression, indeed, women journalists and media workers, are in a very difficult situation.

The harassment of journalists not only affects media practitioners but shortchanges citizens who depend on the media to provide a critical service in society – denying people to access to truth which is a very sad reality.

A recent study by UNESCO, on online violence against women journalists, also shows that the majority of women journalists surveyed had experienced online violence relating to their work. Online violence against women journalists is used to silence independent voices, spread disinformation and undercut fact-based journalism.

In addition, more than 1,000 journalists have died due to COVID-19 according to the Press Emblem Campaign in April this year. Many of these deaths came as a result of a lack of protective equipment and unsafe working practices.

We stand with these struggles of journalists especially women journalists who, at the same time, continue to fight for their piece of airtime, for their spot in newsroom leadership and for women’s voices to be heard. We would also like to recognize the work that they have done and been doing as women journalists-truth tellers.

IAWRT joins all journalists and media workers from all over the world, to call for urgent measures to counter continuing threats and crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We pray for the day when journalists are reporting the news and not making the news, for COVID-safe newsrooms, and general safe environments for media practitioners.


This was in response to the many human rights violations worldwide that put the lives of journalists at risk.

On May 3, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) in partnership with the Journalism and Media International Center (JMIC) of Oslo Metropolitan University, and in collaboration with UNESCO Jakarta held an online protest action on May 3, World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).

A year into the pandemic and the infodemic that surrounded it, journalists and press freedom continue to be under attack.

IAWRT President Violet Gonda shared how IAWRT’s own network had not been exempted from these violations.

Enikass Radio and Television reporter and IAWRT Afghanistan member Malalai Maiwand and her driver were killed on December 10, 2020. On the same day, Manila Today editor and IAWRT Communication officer Lady Ann Salem was arrested on planted evidence and trumped up charges that were dismissed on February 5, leading to her release on March 5. However, Eastern Vista editor and IAWRT Philippines member Frenchie Mae Cumpio is still detained since February 7, 2020 on similar patterns of arrest and charges as Salem.

“The harassment of journalists not only affects media practitioners but shortchanges citizens who depend on the media to provide a critical service in society - denying people to access to truth which is a very sad reality,” said Gonda.

Rappler CEO and the 2021 UN Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize laureate Maria Ressa stressed, “It has never been as tough to be a journalist, to carry out the mission of journalism, to hold power to account. It’s never been as tough, as dangerous, as risky as it is today.”

“We have to hold government to account and that was why I was targeted with 90 hate messages per hour,” started Ressa as she recounted her continuing ordeal with the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte.

“In 2017, President Duterte attacked us in his State of the Nation Address, a week later I got my first subpoena. In 2018, the government filed 11 cases and investigations against us. In 2019, I was arrested twice in a 5-week period, they detained me overnight just the kind to help me feel their power,” shared Ressa.

Ressa said she has posted bail 8 times in 2019, as the criminal cases moved on. She thought the government had mean to bankrupt them, but their community pulled through.

“And this is why it’s wonderful to listen to women all around Asia, because that’s the community we have to pull together to get through this, let’s call this the valley of death,”

Ressa shared she was convicted of cyberlibel in 2020 for “a story that was published 8 years earlier, at a time when the law we supposedly violated did not even exist, for a story I did not write, edit or supervise and for that I could go to jail for 6 years.”

Her lawyer Amal Clooney said she could go to jail for 100 years with all the cases that have been filed against her.

“We cannot leave ourselves feeling down, we cannot get dragged down by the world we live in now. Because part of the reason we became journalist is that we want justice, and we want a better world,” stressed Ressa.

As one of five main speakers in the program, IAWRT Communication officer and former political detainee Salem shared the experience of her December 10, 2020 arrest after being red-tagged by the government.

“In the Philippines, at least 19 journalists have been killed under the current administration and a culture of impunity persist in these crimes. On the one hand, it is journalists and media outfits—not the perpetrators of the journalist killings, the political killings, the tokhang killings—it is Maria Ressa, myself, Frenchie, who are made to suffer weaponization of the law or the abuse of law enforcement,” said Salem, relating her experience to the general situation of journalists in the country.

Salem was freed on March 5, 2021, after the court threw out her cases on February 5.

“Being able to join you here today, almost two months into my release from jail, teaches me that we remain free because we believe in being free and we insist on being free, as colleagues from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in today’s statement,” said Salem.

IAWRT Afghanistan chapter head and IWMF Courage in Journalism Awardee 2013 Najiba Ayubi

“We had 20 years of experience of free media. We established more than 500 media outlets in radio, television and print. We achieved that to make media an industry in this country, and 12,000 workers and journalists were working in this industry,” shared Ayubi.

But Ayubi said the situation was a lot different in the last year.

“When peace negotiations started, the situation changed. We had three big issues: COVID-19 which affected a lot, around 21 media outlets were closed, a number of journalists lost their jobs, a number left the country,” shared Ayubi

And then there were the journalist killings. No one took responsibility and no one was brought to justice for the killings of journalists in the last year, as she said, “we don’t know our killers.”

Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) Senior Broadcast Journalist and CJ Network Head Chan Thiri Soe shared that press freedom is under attack in Myanma.

“They shut down our television channel, they shut down the internet, our media license was permanently revoked,” shared Soe.

Three DVB journalists have been arrested. One of them was arrested in his home at midnight—similar to what Salem and Cumpio in the Philippines. But what’s worse is that military troops surrounded his apartment and opened fire.

The program also invited contributions from IAWRT members and journalists from Asia.

IAWRT India member and former chapter head Nupur Basu said the difficult times in her country in a deadly second wave of COVID-19 had given her a sinking feeling in her stomach like no other in her 40 years as a journalist and filmmaker.

“Journalists are all over trying to record what’s happening on the ground. There is no oxygen, there are no ICU beds and people are dying without oxygen in India, one that like to describe itself as a superpower… Journalist reporting on it are told calm down, don’t exaggerate, don’t spread panic. That’s the general sort of thing to warn them that we should not do the truth telling of the horrific things they are documenting on the ground,” Basu lamented.

She said COVID-19 has been an opportunity for rulers and non-state players who do not want a free press to crack down on the media worldwide.

Basu is the Executive Producer of IAWRT documentary ‘Velvet Revolution’ which chronicles lives of women journalists from the Philippines, Syria, India and Cameroon.

IAWRT Nepal board secretary Neeta Shapkota shared that though the constitution of Nepal guarantees press freedom, challenges to this include political changes, civil war, unstable government, ownership and censorship.

“I work with the state-owned media and I have been struggling with censorship issues in program, content, and reporting,” said Shapkota.

Journalists in Nepal struggle with wage insecurities and lack of job guarantees, especially during the COVID-19 period when a lot of journalists lost their jobs. Meanwhile, women journalists have been more vulnerable to exploitation and abuses. Journalists also faced attacks and arrests during coverage of protest rallies.

IAWRT Pakistan member Qudsia Mehmood elaborated on a current study in her country that says Pakistan has been facing restrictions on electronic, print and social media from state and non-state actors and journalists are facing all kinds of threats like physical, legal and digital threats.

“Censorship is not only to journalists, but also to their media houses because the situation or environment in Pakistan is so much intolerant…especially the sitting government has a mindset that they do not tolerate criticism and censorship extends not only to a specific program but to the whole media outlet,” said Mehmood.

IAWRT India Managing Trustee Samina Mishra recited Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem ‘Bol’ in Urdu and its translation in English by Mustansir Dalvi.

The theme of this year’s WPFD was ‘information as a public good.’

“It serves as a call to reaffirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution of content,” explained Dr. Ming Kuok-Lim, UNESCO Jakarta Advisor for Communication and Information.

Three issues or perspectives on this year’s theme are viability of media and news organizations in this day and age, the transparency of online platforms and how it impacts journalism, the link between media and information literacy and how it can counter and disinformation and hate speech.

He said, “The current pandemic has really increased pressure on journalism and journalism

The pandemic exacerbated existing challenges, including the reality where a lot of media outlets closing… at least 1,000 journalists lost their jobs in the past 12 months alone in South East Asia and false information have flourished some with fatal consequences in some situations. This pandemic underscored the need for reliable, verifiable information and journalists are at the frontline of providing that reliable and verifiable information.”

He agreed in some of the speaker’s call that journalists should have the frontliner status to be in the priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Today, the World Press Freedom Day, 3rd May, is celebrated all over the world…30 years after the Windhoek Declaration…the declaration for a free, independent, pluralistic press is produced by African journalists in Namibia in 1991,” said Oona Solberg of the JMIC of Oslo Metropolitan University to close the program.

This year’s WPFD marked the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, considered a benchmark for ensuring press freedom around the world.

“Here today we are so proud the winner of the UN Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Maria Ressa. This prize is in honor of an assassinated Colombian journalist and Maria is carrying this tradition with carrying the fight for press freedom in the Philippines and in the world for all of us,” said Solberg.

The online protest was attended by IAWRT members and journalists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Denmark, Germany, India, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Tanzania, Sweden, UAE, and USA. Janess Ellao of IAWRT Philippines served as the moderator and IAWRT Philippines President Lynda Garcia led the chanting of protest calls – Defend Press Freedom, Free Frenchie Mae Cumpio and End Attacks Against Journalists.

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day, observed to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

0511 online mentorship program

The IAWRT Online Mentorship Program was conceptualized following feedback at the Biennial, and is aimed at providing opportunities for skill enhancement or professional advancement.


This will entail selecting and placing mentees and mentors in batches of two for the period of three months, six months, nine months or even one year, depending on the nature of the activity. Mentoring will be conducted online since members will be located at different geographical locations across the globe; or unable to meet due to COVID restrictions even if they are in the same city. 



Looking for mentors. We are looking for mentors experienced in the areas of filmmaking, journalism, media production, community radio, and podcasting. Should you wish to mentor in any other area, please mention the specific field in your application form. If you are interested in being a mentor, please fill the attached application form and apply to [email protected] / [email protected].

The mentors will teach across various domains – some suggested areas are documentary filmmaking, journalism, community radio, and podcasting. Should you wish to mentor or be mentored in any other area, please mention the specific field in your application form. Mentors will share skills on a voluntary basis.


Looking for mentees. Are you looking for mentorship in the areas of filmmaking, journalism, media production, community radio, and podcasting? Should you wish to be mentored in any other area, please mention the specific field in your application form. A member interested in being a mentee, needs to fill the attached application form and apply to [email protected] / [email protected]

Mentees can apply for help in diverse ways–with a research paper, a particular project (such as a film at the editing stage), early career skill development and so on.

0511 online mentorship program

The IAWRT Online Mentorship Program was conceptualized following feedback at the last IAWRT Biennial on December 5, 2020, and is aimed at providing opportunities for skill enhancement or professional advancement.


This will entail selecting and placing mentees and mentors in batches of two for the period of three months, six months, nine months or even one year, depending on the nature of the activity. Mentoring will be conducted online since members will be located at different geographical locations across the globe; or unable to meet due to COVID restrictions even if they are in the same city. 



Looking for mentors. We are looking for mentors experienced in the areas of filmmaking, journalism, media production, community radio, and podcasting. Should you wish to mentor in any other area, please mention the specific field in your application form. If you are interested in being a mentor, please fill the attached application form and apply to [email protected] / [email protected].

The mentors will teach across various domains – some suggested areas are documentary filmmaking, journalism, community radio, and podcasting. Should you wish to mentor or be mentored in any other area, please mention the specific field in your application form. Mentors will share skills on a voluntary basis.


Looking for mentees. Are you looking for mentorship in the areas of filmmaking, journalism, media production, community radio, and podcasting? Should you wish to be mentored in any other area, please mention the specific field in your application form. A member interested in being a mentee, needs to fill the attached application form and apply to [email protected] / [email protected]

Mentees can apply for help in diverse ways–with a research paper, a particular project (such as a film at the editing stage), early career skill development and so on.