UNESCO and Thomson Reuters Foundation launched practical guides on the safety of women journalists

The Thomson Reuters Trust Conference during two days on 17 and 18 November explored different challenges to media viability and media freedom.

The second day of the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual flagship event saw a focus on media freedom, exploring the link between media sustainability and media independence, emerging digital rights risks in the Global South and online harassment against women journalists. On the occasion of the conference, the Thomson Reuters Foundation and UNESCO launched a set of two practical guidelines: Gender-sensitive Safety Policies for Newsrooms and a Practical Guide for Women Journalists on How to Respond to Online Harassment, both in collaboration with the International Women’s Media Foundation. These publications aim to inform both newsrooms and women journalists themselves about the techniques and tools they may adopt to prevent and respond to violence and harassment in an effort to foster gender-sensitive workplaces.

The guidelines presented in the publications are a response to the fact that the safety of women journalists, especially online, is too often compromised. Antonio Zappulla, Thomson Reuters Foundation’s CEO, stressed that, “Around the world, women journalists are facing increasing levels of abuse. An avalanche of misogyny and intimidation is being used as a cynical weapon to silence their reporting and undercut trust in journalism.” Guilherme Canela, Chief of the Section for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists at UNESCO, added, “The safety of women journalists is a freedom of expression concern, we need their voices to be represented loud and clear. It is the responsibility of employers, platforms, governments and the international community to ensure that they can do so safely.”

Within the same cooperation, the Thomson Reuters Foundation and  the International News Safety Institute, with the support of UNESCO, also launched a legal guide on online harassment with a gender component covering 13 countries. Online Attacks Against Journalists: Know Your Rights Guide provides journalists with legal analysis of available tools in a given jurisdiction to deal with online harassment.

The launch of the publications took place within the session entitled “Journalists under attack: How online and real world threats risk limiting women’s participation in journalism”, which featured a panel of international experts, including journalists, academics, and media professionals. The speakers assembled discussed the effects of online violence against women journalists, the repercussion this has on freedom of expression, and the ways in which news rooms can uphold their duty of care in order to empower these professionals to carry out their work.

Another session focusing on media freedom saw the launch of the Legal Network for Journalists at Risk, a joint effort between the Thomson Reuters Foundation, The Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Media Legal Defence Initiative to expand the international coordination on legal assistance available to journalists. During this session, Andrea Cairola, Programme Specialist at the Section for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists,  welcomed the initiative referring to the coalition-based approach called upon by the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and highlighted the synergies with the work of the over dozen local networks of lawyers specialized on freedom of expression which are currently supported by the UNESCO-administered Global Media Defence Fund.

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