At OSCE PA-RFoM webinar, lawmakers advocate for a safer online environment for female journalists

Teresa RibeiroTeresa RibeiroCOPENHAGEN, 20 April 2022 – More than 30 Members of Parliament took part in a joint web dialogue today on “Safety of Female Journalists Online: The Role of Parliamentary Action” organized by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

Together with experts, parliamentarians discussed existing challenges to the digital safety of women journalists and elaborated on the proposed actions presented in the Safety of Female Journalists Online (SOFJO) Resource Guide, underlining parliamentarians’ key role in addressing this issue. The event provided a platform to discuss how national parliaments can better ensure adequate, timely and effective prevention, protection and prosecution mechanisms and reinforce mobilizing action in that regard.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Teresa Ribeiro highlighted that gender-based online attacks against journalists have the effect of denying women a public voice. It leads, she said, “to self-censorship or even women retreating from the public sphere, depriving society of diverse information and inclusive public debates – and undermining pluralism and media freedom.” Stressing that parliamentarians have a crucial role in ensuring strong prevention and protection mechanisms for journalists, Ribeiro said that exchanging good practices is an important step towards strengthened parliamentary action.

In his introductory remarks, Rapporteur of the OSCE PA human rights committee Johan Büser (Sweden) noted that parliamentarians should keep the topic high on their agendas. Sweden, he pointed out, has achieved certain progress in protecting female journalists online noting however that more action is needed throughout the OSCE area.

“Journalists today, particularly women, remain at risk in many OSCE countries,” Büser said. “Discussing safety of journalists means discussing democracy and human rights – that is why it is crucial for parliamentarians to focus on exchanging views and together identify best practices to tackle this important issue.”

Emphasizing the importance of taking practical steps towards protection of women journalists online, OSCE PA Special Representative on Gender Issues Hedy Fry (Canada), who dedicated her 2021 report to the topic of violence against women journalists and politicians, pointed out that “women journalists are disproportionately, the targets of online harassment, threats of violence and sexist hate speech.” Many women face intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, Fry said, and refuse to report on certain topics for fear of backlash. “Ultimately, attacks on women journalists are attacks on democracy and cannot be tolerated,” said Fry. “We must use our power as parliamentarians to protect women journalists and freedom of the media.”

200422 WhittingdaleJohn WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale, Head of the UK Delegation to the OSCE PA, underlined the role of national action plans as an important step towards strengthening the protection of journalists and other media as well as bolster press freedom. “The ability of journalists to carry out their work in safety is an essential prerequisite for a free and democratic society,” he said. “The adoption of national action plans is an important first step towards ensuring this.”

Whittingdale noted that female journalists are too often subject to threats, harassment and abuse, both online and in person. By establishing the scale of the problem and putting in place procedures whereby it can be reported and acted upon, he said that countries can both strengthen the protection of journalists and other media as well as bolster press freedom. “Although good progress has been made, more needs to be done to ensure the safety of particularly female, journalists and parliaments need to continue to press for stronger action,” Whittingdale said.

During the debate, experts and participants focused on main legal and policy concepts, initiatives and good practices pertaining to the safety of female journalists online, including those related to the safety of journalists in times of crises and conflicts.

This was the first event in a common initiative to promote SOFJO across the OSCE region. The event built on a SOFJO questionnaire, which provided important first indications of the challenges many parliamentarians face in their work on improving the safety of journalists.

The SOFJO Resource Guide is available online here.

To watch the video of today’s event, please click here.



Нэт Пэрри

Начальник отдела коммуникаций и прессы

Офис: +45 33 37 80 55
Мобильный: +45 60 10 81 77
Электронная почта: [email protected]

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