Courage in Journalism an Imperative in a Climate of Fear
On World Press Freedom Day 2019, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), with its active members in 54 countries, calls for vigorous support for free and independent media and the defence of press freedom as it continues to decline around the world.
Press freedom declines as climate of fear spreads
In the World Press Freedom Index 2019 recently released by Reporters Without Borders, there were only around 43 of 180 countries and territories where the state of journalism is evaluated to be in a good and fairly good state; the rest are assessed to be in problematic, difficult or very serious conditions. Authoritarian regimes are tightening their grip on the media and other governments’ totalitarian propaganda and verbal attacks on the media blur the thin line with physical attacks against journalists. These situations contribute to a climate of fear and a situation prejudicial to a safe reporting environment.
Attacks against female journalists are career-altering
A study released on September 2018 by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) and Troll-Busters.com revealed that nearly two-thirds of female journalist respondents have been harassed, nearly one-third of female respondents consider leaving the profession due to harassment and those early in their careers are twice as likely to consider alternate employment. In addition, more than one-third of female journalists avoid certain stories as a result of the harassment they experience, threatening the ability of media to deliver unbiased and truly free reporting. The survey had 597 female respondents.
Women journalists show courage amid press freedom struggles
In the face of growing threats to press freedom, women journalists in various countries courageously carried out their duties and some of them died in the line of duty. IAWRT would like to pay tribute to:
- Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed in a car bomb attack on Oct 16, 2017 for exposing corruption in Malta;
- Gauri Lankesh, shot dead in India on September 25, 2017 for criticizing the woman’s place in the caste system;
- Miroslava Breach, killed on March 23, 2017, an anti-corruption and human rights reporter for the Norte de Ciudad Juárez and La Jornada newspapers in Mexico;
- Kim Wall, a Swedish journalist who was sexually assaulted and killed while working on a submarine story in August 2017;
- Viktoria Marinova, a Bulgarian journalist raped, hit on the head and suffocated and her body was found on October 6, 2018. She was looking into alleged fraud involving EU funds linked to big businessmen and politicians and prompted speculation that she may have been targeted as “a warning”;
- Lyra McKee, a North Irish freelance journalist shot dead in Derry, Northern Ireland on April 18, 2019 while covering clashes in Creggan, a suburb of Londonderry (Derry). The 'New IRA', a dissident republican group, has admitted responsibility for her murder.
We salute all fellow women journalists in the world who, with all other responsibilities and tasks still asked of their gender, perseveres in this profession. We salute all supporters who believe in the importance of women’s voices being heard.
Commitment and courage
On World Press Freedom Day, we remember that our freedoms are ingrained with responsibilities. While a troubling, steady rise in attacks against journalists and media outlets internationally continue, we underscore the importance of press freedom by committing to the highest standards of the profession, to the truth and to the public that we need to keep informed.
The lives of vilified or incarcerated journalists depend on our ability to continue our work, to not be cowered, and for the rest of the people to act and join us in defending press freedom and freedom of speech in every corner of the world. These attacks, especially against female journalists, cannot continue with impunity and we should move to hold governments who silence news media accountable. We remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom.
In response to censorship, threats, harassments and intimidation, our response and defense are to continue to write, report and investigate for the public interest.
Freedom of expression, freedom of speech and press freedom are bulwarks of people’s civil liberties and human rights and the foundation for any democracy to exist and these are what journalists put their lives on the line every day for, as there is no shortcut or alternative to press freedom.
International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)
From the 26th celebration of World Press Freedom Day from May 1 – 3, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia