Freedom of Expression

Press Release R60/19


March 8, 2019

Washington D.C. - On the occasion of 2019 International Women’s Day, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presents the thematic report Women Journalists and Freedom of Expression: Discrimination and gender-based violence faced by women journalist in the exercise of their profession, which analyzes the situation of women journalists in the region, and examines the obligations of States and the private sector in the elimination of the main obstacles and specific risks faced by women journalists in the exercise of their profession.

Likewise, women journalists are not only more exposed to online attacks than their male colleagues, but in recent years they have suffered an increase in insults, bullying, and online harassment. Among the most frequent forms of online violence are monitoring and stalking, the publication of personal data, trolling, discrediting, defamation, disqualification, and viral hatred. In addition, women who cover issues such as politics, law, economics, sports, and women's rights are at particular risk of being victims of online violence.

Among women journalists, the most common reported cases are rape in retaliation for their work, sexual abuse of journalists in captivity or detention, or sexual violence by mobs against journalists covering public events. In the office, the most frequent practices are unwanted comments about their clothes, whistles, jokes of a sexual nature, and unwanted physical contact.

Violence against women journalists on the basis of gender manifests itself in different ways. Murder, sexual violence, sexual harassment, intimidation, abuse of power, and gender-based threats are some of the most common manifestations of violence. In parallel, women face discrimination in the media and the workplace due to the persistence of the stereotype that journalism is not an "appropriate" profession for women. These discriminatory social norms limit opportunities for women's professional development. Moreover, women are over-represented among those who report news covering issues traditionally related to "female interest"  and under-represented in the coverage of topics considered to be of particular interest, such as those related to politics and government or economics. In addition, indigenous or Afro-descendent women journalists are often disproportionately underrepresented in traditional media.

The report reflects upon the fact that women journalist are two times more likely to be victims of violence for exercising freedom of expression and because of their gender. In addition to the risks of threats and violence faced by all human rights defenders and journalists in the region, women journalists are exposed to additional or specific risks. By challenging chauvinistic stereotypes that disapprove of their participation in public life, they face discrimination based on their gender. In addition, they face a lack of protection and obstacles in access to justice that are also differentiated from their male counterparts.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR recognizes the efforts that have been made by some countries in the region to establish protection programs and mechanisms. However, it is also evident in some countries the absence of specific protection mechanisms or the deficiencies associated with the design and effective implementation of existing mechanisms. Frequently, protection schemes neglect the particularities of the beneficiary's family situation, such as having children of school age, as well as the tasks of domestic work, school supervision, and unpaid care that fall disproportionately on women, which deepens the impact of violence.

In addition, in cases where acts of violence affecting women journalists are reported, impunity remains the norm rather than the exception.

The thematic report systematizes international standards on the safety of journalists from a gender perspective, the state's obligations to prevent, protect and seek justice in the face of acts of gender-based violence against women journalists. It also focuses on the role of the media in preventing gender-based violence, and that related to online platforms giver their role in the prevention and protection of gender-based violence against women journalists.

This report is the culmination of a process initiated in 2017 that was aimed at gathering information which included, in addition to the review of available documentary sources, a series of interviews with experts from the region on freedom of expression, gender and communication. Continuing with this process in February 2018, the Office of the Special Rapporteur convened a consultation of women experts to discuss and strengthen an initial diagnosis and submit a preliminary and non-exhaustive synthesis of the possible contents of a thematic report to the specialists.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.

You can access the micro-site of the thematic report here.