The Digital Safe House launch is a pilot project in the Philippines.

IAWRT launched the Digital Safe House and Collaboration Platform on December 10 International Human Rights Day and the last day of 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This day is also the first year anniversary of the arrest and wrongful imprisonment of its communication officer Lady Ann Salem or Icy and the killing of its IAWRT Afghanistan member Malalai Maiwand. Icy was released on March 5 and headed the Digital Safe House project. 

The Digital Safe House is a one-stop or first-stop shop that links various journalists’ safety and well-being programs offered by different media groups, non-government organizations, human rights, lawyers, and church and religious groups in the Philippines. 

The Digital Safe House for Filipino Women Journalists can be found on this link. 

The Digital Safe House partners have shared with us their own labor of love for journalists such as:

  • The alert system of NUJP and CMFR from where we get the number of journalists killed and the threats and attacks on journalists
  • Peer support and counseling from PECOJON, PCPR and the Order of Carmelites
  • Legal assistance from the Media Defence Legal Initiative and NUPL
  • If you encounter problems with your gadgets or online accounts, you can look at the Digital First Aid to help you secure them or troubleshoot them
  • IAWRT and NUJP have safety handbooks, and NUJP also has ethical guide and psychological first aid handbooks
  • Safety and digital security trainings are being offered by CCJD, NUJP, FMA and PPI provides journalist talks and trainings
  • AIJC also inspired us to include a section on groups that journalists can join like NUJP, PCP and IAWRT because some journalists need a group that they can belong and to support them

IAWRT’s Digital Safe House pilot in the Philippines project officer Lady Ann Salem talked about how women journalists suffer different attacks from men; while they are not on the killed list, they experience online harassment, sexism and misogyny in the field and in the workplace, lawfare, arrests and/or detention and had to live through it.

British Embassy Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils expressed support for the project and recognized the three-year partnership with IAWRT on women journalists’ safety. 

International Media Support Global Safety Advisor Colette Heefner congratulated IAWRT and shared her excitement that the public can now see what IAWRT has been working on for the past months. 

Digital Safe House partners expressed support and commitment for the project during the launch. 

IAWRT Philippines hopes to continue to reach out to more partners all over the country so we can be able to cater their programs, resources, services to more women journalists.

IAWRT plans to iterate the project in other countries where women journalists need a third-party platform to report cases of threats and attacks and seek help so they can continue their work. 

This webinar was held as part of the Digital Safe House for Filipino Women Journalists project

IAWRT held a webinar on “Gender-sensitive Approach on Journalists’ Safety; What, Why and How?” on December 8, 2021 as part of the build-up to the launch of the Digital Safe House Project for Women Journalists. 

Women journalists face specific threats to their safety and professional development and there is growing international consensus that a gender-sensitive approach to promoting the safety of journalists around the world is essential. But what exactly do we mean by gender-sensitive? What evidence do we have that such an approach to journalists’ safety is warranted? Who is supposed to ensure gender-sensitive approach is integrated throughout the safety work? And finally, how will we know if this has been achieved?

The webinar was moderated by Dr. Greta Gober, Vice President of IAWRT International.

IAWRT Philippines Vice President Margarita Valle delivered the opening remarks. She discussed the situation of women journalists during the pandemic and the importance of knowledge on journalists safety to continue the various responsibilities of media practitioners including bringing information to the people. 

IAWRT Philippines Board Member Janess Ellao, the first speaker, shared a study she co-authored, conducted and presented in 2020, “Dealing with sexual harassment: Are women journalists silenced at work?”  In the first part of her discussion, she explained that there are currently limitations in studies and literature about various attacks on women journalists including sexual harassment and other forms of violence at work. Most victims choose to be silent when it comes to these violations.

The main results of the study showed a hazing culture among women journalists who tend to be harassed when they are still new in the industry, both by colleagues and other personalities they encounter in the field. She shared the conclusion of the study, stressing cases that were not reported because the victims and violators have a belief that such attitudes on women are normal. There is also a lack of support from media companies in addressing such issues both in legal and professional aspects. Ellao ended with sharing how journalists are countering these attacks themselves. 

The second speaker, Dr. Ayesha Jehangir, introduced her paper and research which started in 2015 and was published in 2020, and featured in a UNESCO research on gender-based harassment. She gave a background on the research which was a study on the threats and attacks on Pakistani women journalists. Dr. Jehangir enumerated the different manifestations of these abuses from trolling to catcalling, up to rape and even murder. She also noted that online abuses are also becoming prevalent both in social media and through electronic mail. These abuses had different impacts on women journalists such as mental health issues, censorship, and even change of careers. She identified the facilitators of this situation as ‘medium, misogyny, and management.’

Dr. Jehangir also stated that there are laws that are supposed to arrest these abuses but are not being implemented well in Pakistan. Civil society organizations turned out to be more helpful in responding to harassment cases. Before ending the presentation, she also shared some campaign efforts conducted by women journalists to confront their situation.

Dr. Jehangir is a journalist and researcher for University of Technology Sydney, Australia, and author of a qualitative study in Pakistan, “Cost of Doing their Job: Online Harassment of Women Journalists.”

The last speaker, Dr. Diana Maynard, talked about data analysis of online harassment encountered by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, which is a part of a bigger research on online violence against women journalists.

Dr. Maynard explained that the analysis of this study will help journalists to be able to understand the different aspects of online abuse. She then enumerated the basic methodology they used for computational analysis on the case of Maria Ressa. She noted that there is actually twice as much abuse as they detected in the research. 

Dr. Maynard challenged the audience in asserting the fight for media freedom and ensuring the safety of women journalists.

Dr. Maynard is Senior Researcher for the Department of Computer Science, Sheffield University and Co-researcher in the UNESCO commissioned Global Study on Effective Measure to Tackle Online Harassment of Women Journalists and author of “The Chilling: Global Trends in Online Violence Against Women Journalists.”

The webinar was attended by members of IAWRT from different chapters, other women journalists, and communication students from the Philippines.

IAWRT in partnership with International Media Supportis launching the Digital Safe House and Collaboration Platform for Women Journalists in the Philippines on December 10. This is a pilot project and the objective in the future is to build similar Digital Safe Houses in other parts of the world, where IAWRT has chapters, where independent reporting and media freedom are stifled, and where it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a woman journalist. 

The IAWRT Digital Safehouse (DSH) pilot project in the Philippines will build an online platform that will link journalists’ safety programs and efforts.

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Third/last in a series on the Roundtable discussion organized by IAWRT Philippines, OsloMet Journalism and Media International Center, in partnership with the Philippine Press Institute and Hanns Seidel Foundation.

by Janness Ann J. Ellao

Gigie Cruz, Filipino photojournalist and editor for ABS-CBN News and former chairperson of the Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP), discussed the safety of women journalists in covering the elections amid the pandemic during the roundtable discussion and forum, “Halalan 2022: Ready na ba ang kababaihan sa media?” on October 9.

Women journalists and female journalism/communication teachers and students participated in this online event organized by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Philippines and Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) Journalism and Media International Center (JMIC) in partnership with the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF).

Cruz emphasized that the safety of women journalists is brought to the fore again as the Philippines prepares for another national election. Citing a study by Dr. Tom Smith, principal lecturer in international relations and terrorism in the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, Cruz said the Philippine elections next year could be “the bloodiest ever.”

I hope that will not happen, but we have to prepare ourselves. Given the forecast that it will be violent, do we step down? We have to find a balance between risk and safety. Women journalists in the Philippines have shown us that there’s always a way to tell our stories.

Gigie Cruz

As it stands, the Philippines is one of the most dangerous places for a journalist, with President Rodrigo Duterte named as one of the world’s 37 press freedom predators of 2021, according to the Reporters Without Borders. Also, during the pandemic, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said there were more attempts at silencing journalists through charges of libel, which is a criminal offense in this part of the world.

Cruz recalled that in recent history, among the deadliest attacks against journalists worldwide was the infamous Ampatuan massacre that killed 58 people, where 32 were journalists and media workers. This, she added, happened during the election period.

“It is also important to create safe spaces for women journalists where they can find support from each other, especially when things get rough. I think it is always helpful to have organizations like IAWRT and PCP and NUJP, so you can always have people to have your back in case threats happen,” said Cruz.

Apart from looming violence, the risks amid the COVID-19 pandemic must also be considered by journalists who will be covering the elections. Cruz pointed out that there have been changes in how Filipino journalists have been covering, including the wearing of double masks, the use of longer microphone posts, and physical distancing, to name a few.

In her presentation, Cruz highlighted the importance of assessing the risks and opportunities during pre- and post-coverage and protecting one’s digital security. To prepare for coverage, she said it is important to have a contingency plan, make use of location monitoring applications for the newsroom, and use personal protective equipment.

“We always do risk management. Is the threat bigger than the opportunities? Or are the opportunities bigger than the threats? And then you make a decision: should I stay or should I go?” she said.

Cruz also underlined the need to revisit the rights of journalists. “Before we go out there, we should know our rights. We should know the laws that cover journalists, so every time there is a threat against us, or harassment, we can emphasize to these people that I know my rights and I have the right to cover this story,” she said.

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Second in a series on the Roundtable discussion organized by IAWRT Philippines, OsloMet Journalism and Media International Center, in partnership with the Philippine Press Institute and Hanns Seidel Foundation.

by Margarita Valle

Rappler Head of Regions Inday Espina-Varona discussed the importance of amplifying voices of the marginalized and people’s agenda of change for the upcoming elections and beyond during the roundtable discussion and forum, “Halalan 2022: Ready na ba ang kababaihan sa media?” on October 9.

Women journalists and female journalism/communication teachers and students participated in this online event organized by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Philippines and Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) Journalism and Media International Center (JMIC) in partnership with the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF).

Varona shared her thoughts on how journalists can make a difference, especially during elections. She said 2022 is “an ‘existential’ election” for several reasons. 

For one, the veteran journalist who has persistently and painstakingly tackled social issues in her coverage across different government administrations for decades sees the Duterte government as one that is in “disarray.” Citing the slow drop in approval rating in the national surveys and discontent with key governance areas, Varona pointed out that citizens have become critical of the way Duterte tried to sneak into the vice presidency run machinations.

At the same time, the current political maneuverings of the status quo seem to dominate, particularly on social media, where the army of trolls seems to be determined to pursue spreading disinformation and deceit in whatever manner they see fit. However, she cited the “specter of accountability” faced by the president, even as “the ‘opposition’ is equally unwieldy” and there are “too many challengers” dissipating “odds of stopping Duterte’s favored successor and/or proxies.” 

She added that the challenge of ending Duterte’s despotic rule seems gargantuan, citing the threat of COVID-19 that continues to hamper grassroots campaigns. Moreover, legacy and digital media battlegrounds only benefit the rich, as the “promiscuous chase for profits by tech companies worsen the problem of disinformation.”

Seeing that “even the most organized blocs of the opposition lack a strategic view of social media” and “parochial and sectarian mindsets trap messages in silos and prevent amplification,” Varona noted that these add up to the mounting challenges that media is facing. The lack of critical consciousness among the so-called opposition has somehow drowned their dissenting voices, making them invisible in their fight.

Varona then presented some strategies for journalists that would “highlight people’s issues” in the current race for government positions. Citing what surveys have revealed about the current national situation with regard to the lack of jobs, loss of income, poverty, hunger, COVID-19, and corruption, she laid out how the media should cover the elections.

Among these are the following tips:

  • Go beyond the usual suspects
  • Look for authentic voices
  • Frame stories on a human scale
  • Show how communities are linked by pain and struggle
  • Never forget hope

In addition, she suggested that journalists “be conscious of media consumption patterns.”

She encouraged using “live and video shorts (immersive experience) with dramatic photos” and practicing “data and visual journalism,” which helps explain complex issues.

Further elucidating on these strategies, she said issues that directly affect people’s lives need to be highlighted in the election coverage, as these are the political yardsticks that would measure the real intention of the candidates in running for specific positions in government service.

Varona likewise stressed the need for journalists to not only inform the public but more importantly, help the electorate understand issues. Citing the circus that the electoral processes have become for decades, she said the journalists’ most important role in Philippine society today includes engaging audiences, concretizing stories, and helping people understand the context of stories are crucial.

“Always bring a story down to the everyday experience,” she stressed. “That will mean that you are one. You are not separate, you are not above your audience… you are actually with them.”

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First in a series on the Roundtable discussion organized by IAWRT Philippines, OsloMet Journalism and Media International Center, in partnership with the Philippine Press Institute and Hanns Seidel Foundation.

by Therese San Diego Torres


Luz Rimban, executive director of the Asian Center for Journalism (ACFJ) at the Ateneo de Manila University, tackled dealing with disinformation and propaganda during the elections in the roundtable discussion and forum, “Halalan 2022: Ready na ba ang kababaihan sa media?” [Elections 2022; Are women in media ready?] on October 9, 2021.


Women journalists and female journalism/communication teachers and students participated in this online event organized by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Philippines and Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) Journalism and Media International Center (JMIC) in partnership with the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF).


Rimban started the discussion with reflections on the 2022 elections and what is at stake. She underlined the possible return to Malacañang of the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, as well as the continuous hold on power of President Rodrigo Duterte and his family, whose reasons to remain in power include the official probe of the International Criminal Court (ICC) into alleged crimes against humanity in Duterte’s “war on drugs.”


At the same time, she noted that there are “pro-democracy, freedom-loving Filipinos” who “know that Marcos and Duterte represent the darkest times of the country” and “don’t want a repeat of martial law or a repeat of the past six years.”


Given this context, Rimban noted, “In a race as tight as the one we are having in 2022, we can expect that disinformation and propaganda will go into overdrive.”


Injecting disinformation and propaganda into social media content may be done “subtly” or “covertly” by candidates, their campaigns, and their supporters. While those who have money can spread these on a larger scale, everyone can engage in disinformation and propaganda, which is why journalists and the public must remain vigilant, said Rimban. She acknowledged that because there are no gatekeepers on social media, it has become more difficult for citizens to distinguish between true and false information.


As these types of content continue to surface on social media, Rimban encouraged introspection on how to view and respond to disinformation and propaganda. Acknowledging the power of certain politicians as “masters of disinformation” and the fact that there are “bloggers, influencers, and vloggers who are looking for content,” she invited the participants to look at such content more critically rather than “pick a fight” with content producers.


Disinformation and propaganda are not new, but social media allows these to spread at an unprecedented speed and scale. What Rimban pointed out about encouraging critical thinking helps individuals pause and try to make sense of the bigger picture, rather than get caught up in what disinformation and propaganda spreaders are feeding.


This is also what Rimban underlined during the roundtable discussion, when asked about the issue of “he said, she said” reporting during the elections. She noted that while “there’s a place for breaking news,” it is “also incumbent upon journalists to… take a step back and look at the bigger picture.”


Rimban shared the following ways to deal with disinformation, in particular:

  1. Fact-check as part of daily work.
  2. Study election laws, voting procedures, facts and history.
  3. Correct erroneous narratives within your own circles.
  4. Promote critical thinking.
  5. Spread media/social media literacy.


Rimban said doing quality journalism requires knowing how to fact-check and continuously learning about election laws, voting procedures, and related facts and historical information. She also advised sharing fact-check findings and correcting false information within one’s own circles such as in chat groups, as well as promoting how to think critically especially during the elections.


She added that media/social media literacy and fact-checking initiatives must be strengthened, as these are often done in schools and journalists’ circles while other stakeholders are often overlooked. She shared that when ACFJ shared tips with an urban poor community on how to spot falsehoods, the participants were “so excited because nobody had taught it to them before” and were “very keen on getting more information.”


This is a strong reminder for journalists and other stakeholders to expand discussions and engagement on how to deal with disinformation and propaganda.