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Girls & Women

UN Expert Urges Governments to Protect Women Journalists Subjected to Violence


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The fear of experiencing gender-based violence at work does not allow women to reach their full potentials. Protecting women and girls is key to ending poverty. You can join us and take action on this issue here

Since 1992, 96 women journalists have been killed for doing their jobs. Dubravka Simonovic, United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, is now urging the world to protect women in media.

Simonovic highlighted the increasing threat against women journalists in an appeal to the UN member states on Wednesday. She argued the attack on women journalists is a part of the global backlash against women’s rights and called on countries to end gender-based violence and discrimination against women. Women are especially at risk of abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic, she pointed out.

“Women have a right to be safe in their own homes,” Simonovic said. “Any measures to combat the pandemic must respect human rights and take into account the needs of women in line with the UN secretary-general’s appeal for ‘peace at home.’”

In April, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for urgent action to address the spike in domestic violence in the wake of COVID-19. 

While more male journalists have died in the past few decades, women are more likely to be experienced gender-based violence such as sexual assault, rape, and rape threats, Simonovic said. Women journalists are disproportionately targeted by online harassment and women journalists from marginalized communities experience higher levels of discrimination.

Simonovic referenced one 2019 study that was conducted in dozens of newsrooms across five countries and found that women and journalists who were of color, Indigenous, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or intersex, were more likely to be targeted online with malicious and highly sexualized threats. Another survey by the Guardian Media Group found that among millions of comments, 8 out of 10 of the most abused writers were women, she said.

Many women journalists are still afraid to speak up against abuse, despite growing international movements like #MeToo that empowered survivors to come forward about sexual assault. And journalism isn’t the only industry plagued by sexism and discrimination –– millions of women are vulnerable to gender-based violence in the workplace across all professions.

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Simonovic stressed the importance of countries supporting the UN’s efforts to end and prevent gender-based violence by implementing a global plan to address the issue.