Gender Equality in the Newsroom: International Federation of Journalists Conference on Gender and Ethics

  on January 21, 2014

They gathered in Brussels to attend a two-day conference on Gender and Ethics: Gender Equality in the Newsroom on 30 -31 May 2009.  The event was part of the IFJ’s Ethical Journalism Initiative launched in 2008. In his remarks to the opening session, Mr White underlined the importance of upholding ethical standards within journalism. Journalism that reinforces stereotypes builds barriers to equality, he said.

The IFJ considers fair gender portrayal as part of ethical journalism, and sees it as a vital ethical challenge in journalism. He stated that fair portrayal goes beyond journalistic choices about pictures and language to include how the news agenda itself is defined and by whom. He underlined the benefit to journalism of partnerships with civil society groups such as WACC to make journalism stronger.

The working sessions of the conference began with a presentation by Lavinia Mohr, WACC’s Director of Programmes, on the Who Makes the News? report of the Third Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP 2005) on the representation of women and men in the news around the world. The GMMP is the largest and longest running research and advocacy project on gender representation in the news. It provides extensive evidence about how journalistic routines and practices lead to unfair and unbalanced representation of women and men in the news worldwide. Its findings, based on monitoring over 13,000 news stories in 76 countries, show that fair and balanced representation in the news around the world remains an aspiration rather than a reality. The findings show some change for the better compared to the previous survey five years earlier.  But if the rate of change is not increased, it will take decades to reach fair and balanced gender portrayal in the news around the world. WACC invited the participants to take part in the next Global Media Monitoring Project.

Alton Grizzle, UNESCO Communication Development Division Programme Specialist, stated that gender equality in the media is still an aspiration rather than a reality.  He pointed out that gender equality in the newsrooms and in the news agenda are inextricably linked.  It is crucial, he said, that the news “reflect the world as seen through the eyes of women as well as men.”

The contributions of conference participants made clear their concerns with three separate aspects of gender equality and journalism: equality within the journalistic profession and working conditions for journalists; equality in journalists unions and union leadership, and equality in news content.

The final declaration recognised that “it is essential to hold strong to principles of ethical reporting to fight gender stereotypes, to combat aggressive behaviour, harassment, inequality in promotion, training and pay, and to stand up for dignity in our work as journalists and media professionals” and that “all media workers, journalists, and trade unionists should work together to improve ethical journalism, to respect the rights and dignity of all women, and to ensure that the images of women in media and society reflect the need to end all discrimination in social, economic, political and cultural life...”

The IFJ has recently published “Getting the Balance Right: Gender Equality in Journalism” in English, Spanish and French.

The conference was supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNESCO, International

Media Support, and LO/TCO Trade Union Development.

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January 21, 2014
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Beijing +20: In my opinion...

The most important contribution that the Beijing Platform for Action has made to advancing gender equality in and through the media is:

Setting global standards to which governments and the media can be held accountable
Bringing coherence to and greater understanding of civil society initiatives on gender, women and media
Raising the profile of work on 'women and media' as important for addressing gender inequalities in women's lived experiences.

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