IAWRT Statement on #WorldPressFreedomDay 2024

To commemorate World Press Freedom Day, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) would like to amplify the call for international environmental justice that goes hand in hand with freedom of expression. All across our environmentally precarious planet, we see that dictatorial regimes, as well as so-called democratic governments that restrict free speech, are the most severe violators of environmental norms for a sustainable future. Nations whose governments are involved in climate change denial, depletion of forests, reckless extraction of non-renewable natural resources, and persecution of those who uphold environmental sustainability are also the ones that clamp down on journalists and media practitioners, whether through overt or covert censorship. Even in the democratic nations of Europe, we see that peaceful citizen-led environmental activism is opposed by governments in power, so much so that in February 2024, Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders under the Aarhus Convention, observed the following: 

“The repression that environmental activists who use peaceful civil disobedience are currently facing in Europe is a major threat to democracy and human rights. The environmental emergency that we are collectively facing, and that scientists have been documenting for decades, cannot be addressed if those raising the alarm and demanding action are criminalized for it. The only legitimate response to peaceful environmental activism and civil disobedience at this point is that the authorities, the media, and the public realize how essential it is for us all to listen to what environmental defenders have to say.” 

Against this alarming backdrop of the unprecedented effects of climate change, pollution of our air, water and land, and biodiversity destruction, IAWRT calls on all journalists, press and media organizations to highlight these disastrous impacts and to hold states and corporations accountable for the environmental destruction that is pushing the planet beyond a point of no return.

According to Media Defence, “Reporting on the environment has become one of the most dangerous jobs in journalism. Over the past decade, at least 13 journalists investigating environmental issues have been killed as a direct result of their work. Countless others have suffered violence, harassment, intimidation and SLAPP lawsuits

IAWRT salutes the efforts of so many courageous journalists who, despite risks to their lives, continue to report on sensitive issues across the planet, such as war, environmental crimes, and persecution of citizens. May the struggles for a safer planet for all of us, which goes together with upholding press freedom, see positive results as individuals, organizations and networks work in solidarity for a sustainable future.

IAWRT is a global network with 14 country chapters and over 400 members in 54 countries.

Statement on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2024

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television was born in 1951 to promote women’s voices and stories in media and women’s leadership in newsrooms and elsewhere. While women in the world have made great strides, some of our gains have been quickly eroded in the last few years by authoritarian regimes, wars and COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. After 72 years, IAWRT continues to campaign for gender equality and justice,  as we have yet to achieve this in many parts of the world.

In countries where our chapters and members are present, women in media experience various difficulties that hamper their progress and leadership:  

·  In Afghanistan, women journalists have been denied the right to practise their profession and are subject to violence from the Taliban. Many have been forced into hiding or into exile in other countries, to safeguard their lives. 

·  In the Philippines, women journalists are subjected to various state-sponsored attacks and threats such as raids and arrests, surveillance and online harassment. The youngest jailed journalist in the world, Frenchie Mae Cumpio, hails from this country. Several also experience sexual harassment in the workplace.

·  In Nepal, women journalists still face challenges in the workplace due to gender discrimination. The current global pandemic, COVID-19, has further exacerbated the challenges faced by women journalists. Many media organizations are facing financial constraints and job cuts, leading to an increase in joblessness among journalists, including women.

·  In India, women journalists and media persons face challenges to freedom of expression, including online attacks, state surveillance, and self-censorship by media houses.

These are the enormous odds we are up against. That’s why as an organization, we persist despite the difficulties we have faced in recent years. Our collective efforts and unity, our sisterhood and camaraderie, will surmount many obstacles in our quest for gender justice.

Women comprise half the world’s population but have not gotten the same share of the pie in most aspects of life. We echo the UN Women’s call this International Women’s Day (IWD) to “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.”

We join the world in celebrating International Women’s Day. We join hands with all our sisters as we continue to fight for our rights and for a world with gender equality.

Former IAWRT President Violet Gonda hosted the inaugural conference on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Political Campaigns or the International Political Campaigns Expo 2024 (#IPE2024) held in Cape Town, South Africa on January 25-26, 2024.

The theme of the gathering was “Transforming Political Campaigns: How AI and Big Data Amplify Voter Engagement and Shape Political Campaigns in Africa.”

There were 130 delegates from 30 countries.

Ms. Gonda said the discussions at the conference “shed light on Africa’s readiness for this technological advancement and the unique challenges it presents, ensuring our continent’s active participation in shaping the future of AI.”

“It was particularly encouraging to see more than 20 African countries represented, including representatives of electoral management bodies and members of ruling and opposition parties all in one room,” she added.

The goal of the conference, according to organizers, is to build a knowledge hub where we pool insights to craft a comprehensive report and store box of AI stories and examples that scholars and enthusiasts can dive into and use for all purposes. Another key goal is to assist in navigating AI regulations.

The year 2024 is a big election year in the world. Around 16 nations in the African continent are expected to hold elections in 2024. Additionally, 7 of the world’s 10 most populous nations are also holding their elections this year. They are Bangladesh, India, United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, and Mexico.

(Photo from UN Sr Ms. Irene Khan’s post: https://twitter.com/Irenekhan/status/1751316283390583246)

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) welcomes the visit of UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression Ms. Irene Khan to our Philippine chapter member Frenchie Mae Cumpio today in Tacloban City Jail.

Eastern Vista editor-in-chief Frenchie was arrested on February 7, 2020 in a police pre-dawn raid in her media outfit’s staff house after the police alleged that firearms and explosives were found in their possession. Days before her arrest, she experienced red-tagging and surveillance. Her arrest would become the start of a pattern of red-tagging followed by raids and arrests of journalists that year, as two other IAWRT Philippines members, Anne Krueger and Lady Ann Salem, would suffer the same fate. Krueger is out on bail on the original charges against her while the government appealed the dismissal of charges against Salem, now pending at the Supreme Court.

Frenchie turned 25 a few days before Ms. Khan’s visit and she has now spent almost four years of her youth in jail on trumped-up charges and continued political persecution. After the illegal possession charges, additional trumped-up charges that intend to prolong her incarceration have been slapped against her.

Aside from Cumpio, Ms. Khan met with Marielle Domequil and Alexander Philip Abinguna, two human rights defenders arrested with Frenchie who are also still in jail. SR Khan also met with their legal counsels and with CSOs in the region, one of the poorest in the country. Reports of red-tagging and the online and physical surveillance or attacks that follow are common complaints. These continue to be a scourge that impinges on freedom of belief, association, opinion and expression.

IAWRT Acting President Jola Diones-Mamangun flew to Tacloban with fellow IAWRT members and met Frenchie’s mother Rexly and Marielle’s mother Marieta and invited them to take part in the Butterfly Campaign for Women in Media of IAWRT Philippines.

The campaign, launched coinciding with SR Khan’s visit, is meant to shed light on the situation of women journalists who suffer from state repression, as well as others who are made vulnerable to sexual harassment and other forms of attacks on women journalists. 

In the coming months, IAWRT aims to continue to bring these issues to a global platform. IAWRT has consultative status with ECOSOC and participates yearly at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held coinciding with International Women’s Day. The Philippines will chair CSW this year and we aim to bring here our call for the release of Frenchie and for the betterment of the plight of women in media in the world.  

by IAWRT Kenya

Every year since 2013, on November 2nd, journalists and media stakeholders across the world pay tribute to journalists killed because of their work, and raise awareness of the danger of impunity for crimes committed against journalists, in their line of work.

During the 2023 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI) and through the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), IAWRT Kenya (IAWRT-K) together with Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) were tasked to lead and find an innovative way of mapping and reporting on harassment and attacks against women journalists.

The meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia brought together journalists from five regions in Africa, namely East, West, South, North and Central Africa. IAWRT-K allowed its members in Africa to apply and be part of the training. Former IAWRT President Racheal Nakitare, IAWRT Kenya chapter head Josephine Karani and a representative from HRNJ, a co-lead from Uganda were among the attendees. Over 70 applications were received from all regions in Africa, but only 10 slots were opened.

Speaking at the opening of the training of trainers, Dr. Rita Bissoonauth, Director of UNESCO Liaison Office to AU and UNECA and Representative to Ethiopia expressed the importance of the safety of journalists to freedom of expression, the rule of law, and the development of democratic societies in Africa.

“I urge you to continue joining efforts with UNESCO in supporting the regional and national mechanisms for monitoring and reporting attacks against journalists in Africa, and to work together to create a safe and enabling environment for the journalists to perform their essential work without fear or interference,” said Dr. Rita Bissoonauth.

IAWRT and HRNJ are in the process of accomplishing tasks to ensure there is a model in place to monitor and report attacks on journalists using modern technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Ushahidi crowdsourcing map with special focus on female Journalists, as well as developing tools and rolling out data collection methods in the five African regions with at least two focal persons per region.

This task was due to the upward trend of increased online violence against journalists. Many journalists face violence due to their work and even in the line of duty. Violence at any level is to be strongly condemned whether it is trolling on social media or physical violence that may lead to hospitalization or death.

In 2023, UNESCO released a fact sheet on “Safety of Journalists particularly threatened during elections.” The data collected between January 2019 and June 2022 revealed that 759 journalists and media professionals were attacked, 42% (320) of whom were attacked by law enforcement agents, and 29% of attacked journalists (218) were women.

Dr. Rita Bissonauth said, “We are alive to the fact that female journalists are particularly vulnerable to gender-based attacks, such as sexual harassment, rape, and online abuse, which often go unreported and unpunished.”

Part of the plan being enforced includes laying the foundation for incorporating the Iraqi model (in 2024) which monitors and reports violations to police, lawyers and judges in real-time with the view of finding remedial measures to each threat. The team benefitted from an online training from Mr. Dhea Bubhee of UNESCO who shared the Iraq model.

During the three days of training in Addis Ababa, the attendees were taken through various topics such as the Safety of Journalists and combating impunity on crimes against journalists in the digital age, Access to Justice for Human Rights violations with special reference to Journalists, Digital Transformation: Emerging media trends – AI & Journalism and Understanding the Iraq mapping model among others.

On the final day of the training, Mr. Mwendwa Kivuva of Kenya ICT Network (KICTANet) took the trainees through a practicum where they had to monitor and map cases from all perspectives. The team was able to lay the foundation for incorporating the Iraqi model, launching the mapping, and deciding on the way forward.

by IAWRT Kenya

The Kenyan Chapter was taken through a training for the safety of journalists by the former Vice President of IAWRT International Ms. Abeer Saady. She was in Kenya to train Sudanese journalists who are displaced and live in most East African countries. She jumpstarted the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (GBV) for the Kenyan Chapter.

“Women harassment should not be normalized as part of the job, and one should not be alone in the face of harassment, either online or offline,” stressed Abeer.

For 16 days of activism, members of the Kenyan Chapter sent out messages every day that went out on local media and social media platforms, particularly on X (former Twitter).

IAWRT Kenya chapter head Josephine Karani participated in a live morning show on the national broadcaster Kenya Broadcasting Corporation to showcase the work the chapter has been doing towards sensitizing women on their safety online. Watch the episode here:   

by IAWRT Nepal

The 3rd IAWRT Nepal International Women’s Film Festival & 4th IAWRT Nepal Short Film Competition were organized by IAWRT Nepal Chapter on 25th of November 2023 A.D (B.S 2080 Mangshir 9) at the hall of Film Development Board, Chabahil, Kathmandu. The event focused on the celebration of the talent, creativity, and resilience of women in the world of cinema.

The 3rd IAWRT Nepal International Women’s Film Festival is a testament to the richness of stories and the indomitable spirit of the women behind and in front of the camera. The event was organized on 25th November, the beginning day of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a key international moment to call for an end to violence against women and girls. The campaign is celebrated until 10th December every year.

Around 500 joined the event.

The event was inaugurated by lighting the Panas by the Chief Guest of the inaugural session Honorable Indira Rana Magar (Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nepal). This was followed by the Welcome Speech by IAWRT Nepal chapter head Ichchha Gurung.

The contributions made by the chapter founder and former chapter heads, Ms. Bandana Rana and Ms. Anupa Shrestha were acknowledged and Ms. Montessori Rajbhandari was announced as the honorary member while felicitating.

by Empowerhouse / Birgitte Jallov

16 women working with community radio to strengthen the voices and lives of women in their area

Sharon Bagwan-Rolls, Co-founder FemLINKpacific

Sharon Bagwan-Rolls has worked to give a voice and to empower women – young women, rural women, women living with disabilities and women in the LGBTQI circles – through engaging them in the media and getting an empowered and insightful voice. Through the organisation she co-founded, FemLINKpacific, she has helped found and form robust and sustainable women’s community media platforms in Fiji and other Pacific Island countries.

Sharon is a second-generation Fiji Island feminist working on the intersection of gender, media, communications and peace by supporting the development and production of appropriate and accessible media. Following a career in mainstream broadcasting, she co-founded FemLINKpacific in 2000. This became the basis for the development of a feminist media network which included the Pacific’s first women-led community radio network and the innovative Women’s Weather Watch information-communication system.

Sharon is a member of the Generation Equality Forum Civil Society Advisory Group and a taskforce member of the WPS-Humanitarian Action Compact building on her contribution to the UN Women-convened Civil Society Advisory Group, the first UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, the High-Level Advisory Group for the Global Study on UNSCR1325+15 & UN Expert Group on Women and the Media. She was included in the 1000Peacewomen for the Nobel Peace Prize (2005) and received the 2014 NGO CSW Forum Woman of Distinction award in recognition of her dedication to enable and empower community media production in print, digital story-telling, online/social media, and television to increase visibility of women and young women’s viewpoints and realities.

Read more here: https://www.spreaker.com/…/1471…/sharon-final-all-done_1

EMPOWERHOUSE launches its contribution to the 16-day campaign by sharing 16 women’s community radio stories: unfolding how each broadcaster has been seeing positive change for women and girls – working intensely to eliminate violence against women and girls

by Empowerhouse / Birgitte Jallov

16 women working with community radio to strengthen the voices and lives of women in their area

Palmira Velasco, Founder of Women’s Community Radio, Mozambique

Palmira has been at the forefront of independent journalism in Mozambique, co-founding the first independent daily newspaper DEMOS. She also co-initiated the Mozambican Women in Mass Media Association (AMCS) of which she was the executive director for 12 years. In this capacity, Palmira and AMCS took the initiative to start Mozambique’s first women’s radio: N’thiyana, meaning ‘Women’.

Read more here::https://empowerhouse.dk/palmira-velasco-mozambique/

EMPOWERHOUSE launches its contribution to the 16-day campaign by sharing 16 women’s community radio stories: unfolding how each broadcaster has been seeing positive change for women and girls – working intensely to eliminate violence against women and girls.

by Empowerhouse / Birgitte Jallov

16 women working with community radio to strengthen the voices and lives of women in their area

Kadi Souley Bonkano, Radio FAHAM, Niger

Kadi Souley Bonkano from Niger’s capital city Niamey was a broadcaster on the local community radio Radio Anfani. Kadi worked to develop the women’s radio based on a local women’s association she had founded, called FAHAM. Faham is a word borrowed from Arabic which means understanding. Kadi wants to ensure education and ‘understanding’ – also of women’s perspectives, experiences, dreams and lives through FAHAM.

Faham was created in 2005 as an apolitical, non-denominational and non-profit national association, focusing on ways to ensure equity and greater inclusion of the voices of women living in semi-urban and rural areas. The association soon realised that to achieve their goals, community radio, which Kadi had experience with earlier, would be not only a good way, it became a priority, and FAHAM got a broadcast license for the radio in 2010.

FAHAM had the support of a former MP, who secured free offices in the suburbs of Niamey, and from Kadi’s sister, the station got a computer, a printer and a photocopier which both were used for training and functioned as a small telecentre, allowing the volunteers to have an income while waiting for the installation of the equipment.

FAHAM therefore started training women leaders in the community to become community broadcasters and identified an acute need for a community school, which the association started. It is for children 3-5 years old and financed by the parents, who pay 15 euros per year. With the school in place, it was easier for the community radio volunteers to spend time at the station.

Whereas the school is still in place, the station closed down after heavy rains flooded the association’s office and they had to realise that the location of the offices could not guarantee the stability and safety of the radio that they needed. The broadcasters continued producing programmes that were broadcast on other existing stations. Activities were suspended in 2019 when COVID-19 arrived.

Last year, in 2022, FAHAM started a reorganization of the association and the radio-focus. FAHAM intends to be the 1st web radio in Niger by women and for women, ensuring dialogue for women to share and act together, breaking down constraints on women’s access to media and public spaces.

The station will contribute to strengthening the image of rural women and it intends to reach and impact 25,000 to 30,000 households. so now, again, FAHAM trains women leaders – the future broadcasters to cover the information needs and interests they together have worked to identify.

Read more here: https://empowerhouse.dk/kadi-souley-bonkano/

EMPOWERHOUSE launches its contribution to the 16-day campaign by sharing 16 women’s community radio stories: unfolding how each broadcaster has been seeing positive change for women and girls – working intensely to eliminate violence against women and girls.