Tunisia Signs Media Freedom Declaration

Today, 26 August 2016, Tunisia became the second country to sign the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World, following the footsteps of Palestine who signed the Declaration on 2 August.

The Declaration was adopted on 4 May 2016 in Casablanca at a conference held by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Moroccan Journalists Union.

The Declaration reaffirms that "freedom of expression [...] is a fundamental human right which finds protection in international and regional human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” The barriers to women's freedom of expression include gender-based discrimination, underrepresentation and marginalization in and through all media forms.

It is significant that the Declaration, in Principle 16  focuses specifically on equality by stating as follows:

“Equality between men and women, as well as for minorities and marginalised groups, is a fundamental principle that should be supported in media workplaces in the following ways:
i.     Through legal guarantees for equal pay for equal work and equal access to employment opportunities, including promotion to senior decision-making positions.
ii.    Through collective contracts that offer flexible working hours and adequate parental leave.
iii.   Through media outlets providing safe working environments for women and protection to women journalists against sexual harassment, intimidation, bullying and violence.”

The Declaration matters for women's freedom of expression and employment in news media. According to the Global Media Monitoring Project, the gender gap in news reporters in the Middle East has narrowed by only four points in 15 years between 2000 to 2015. Further, women make up only 18% of the people seen, heard or read about in Middle Eastern news, a four point increase in the past 20 years. With this statistic, the Middle East lags behind all other regions with regard to gender equality in presence and voice in the news.

The IFJ in a press release states that the Declaration is "supported by hundreds of representatives of journalists unions, broadcasters, human rights organisations and press freedom groups".

Access the Declaration here.

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Advancing gender equality in media

In my opinion, the most effective strategy to achieve gender-sensitive media is:

Increased gender-awareness training of media professionals
Greater action by audiences to hold their media accountable
Stricter enforcement of gender-focussed media codes and policies
More female journalists, editors and media house managers


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