Skip to main content

Protecting Journalists: A Gender Perspective


“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves.  We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.” Audre Lorde


This is the first post on a series drawing attention to the need for a gender perspective in all measures and programmes dealing with the protection of journalists. This first post sets out some of the international standards which have been developed recently to protect female journalists.  There has been increasing concern about the safety of journalists in peace time and in conflict.  Female journalists face the same risks as their male counterparts when investigating and reporting.  They also face specific changes based on their gender. Over the last 5 years, there has been a concerted effort by the international community to highlight the gendered forms of violence which female journalists face in the course of their work.  This violence ranges from sexist or misogynist abuse to sexual violence and feminicide.

A second post, in April 2017, will look at the work of the Special Rapporteurs on female journalists and a third post, in May 2017, will examine the regional developments with regard to a gender perspective on protecting journalists.  It is hoped that these posts will draw attention to the specific risks that female journalists face and spark a conversation on how these risks can be effectively combated.

Both internationally and regionally, legal standards have developed which highlight the need for a gender perspective in safety measures.  The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and the 2016 Recommendation on the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists and other media actors by the Committee of Experts of the COE.  The 2016 Recommendation states the following:

it is alarming and unacceptable that journalists and other media actors in Europe are increasingly being threatened, harassed, subjected to surveillance, intimidated, arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, physically attacked, tortured and even killed because of their investigative work, opinion or reporting…


Journalists and other media actors are often specifically targeted on account of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, membership of a minority group, or other particular characteristics which may expose them to discrimination and dangers in the course of their work and Female journalists face specific gender related dangers, including sexist, misogynist and degrading abuse.


A gender specific perspective should be a central feature of all measures and programmes dealing with the protection of journalists and other media actors and the fight against impunity.

The CEDAW Committee has been particularly vocal in drawing attention to the dangers faced by human rights defenders and female journalists.  In 2012, in the Concluding Observations of the Committee on Mexico, the Committee expressed:

“deep concern about the risks women human rights defenders and journalists face in the exercise of their professional activities in the State party and the fact that a number of them had to leave their domicile to seek a place where their life and security would not be threatened.  It is concerned at information indicating that they are subjected to different manifestations of violence, such as threats and defamation campaigns, sexual abuse, harassment and feminicide.  It is further concerned at the delays in the response of the relevant authorities to guarantee the human rights of women human rights defenders and journalists, in particular, freedom of expression, life, liberty and integrity of the person as well as access to justice.”

The Committee urged Mexico the ensure the prompt implementation of the Law for the protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

The Human Rights Committee has also adopted a ground-breaking Resolution on the safety of journalists. This Resolution also acknowledges the specific risks faced by women journalists in the exercise of their work and underlining in this context the importance of taking a gender-sensitive approach when considering measures to address the safety of journalists. The Resolution goes on unequivocally condemn “the specific attacks on women journalists in the exercise of their work, including sexual and gender-based discrimination and violence, intimidation and harassment, online and offline.”

The resolutions, observations and recommendations all demonstrate that a specific gender perspective is necessary to ensure that female journalists are adequately protected from dangers and that their fundamental human rights are respected. These standards are both necessary and welcome, recognizing the important role that women and men play as vital watchdogs of society.



Image: Al Jazeera


Venue: Doughty Street Chambers, 54 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS
Venue: Doughty Street Chambers, 53-54 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS