Our Voices

Cross-Regional Reflections on Violence Against Women Journalists

On November 27th, as a part of the 16 days of activism following the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, RFK Human Rights convened a webinar to discuss violence against women journalists. The webinar served as a cross-regional platform to celebrate the work of women journalists from across Africa and Latin America and beyond, as well as highlight the violence they face, examine how this harm impacts them, and explore pathways to create a conducive environment for these women to enjoy their rights and complete their work. Moderated by Sofia Jaramillo (RFKHR), the webinar featured panelists Dr. Julie Posetti (International Center for Journalists), Michelle Mendoza (CNN Español), Hala Al-Karib (SIHA Network), Raissa Carrillo (Media Defence), and Sarah Wesonga (Article 19).

Dr. Posetti began the conversation discussing how impunity for online violence against women journalists aids and abets crimes against women journalists offline. She explained how her research shows this violence is committed to silence women, chill their journalism, and discredit them and their media outlets, therefore framing online violence against women journalists as both a freedom of expression crisis and a gender crisis.

Hala Al-Karib talked about the situation of grassroots women journalists in Sudan and Somalia, explaining how they live in conditions of poverty, lack access to a decent wage, and are a target of physical and online violence–especially in times of crisis. She highlighted how there is a large struggle to find resources that are specifically available for women journalists to develop their capacity, which prevents them from shedding light on critical issues in their society.

Michelle Mendoza, a Guatemalan journalist who currently lives in exile, told her personal story of facing various risks while reporting on corruption. After recounting the various threats she has faced throughout her career, she explained how a gender perspective is essential when addressing violence against journalists because of the increased threats and vulnerability, and emphasized how it is also essential to address the issue from a mental health perspective. She also discussed how it is crucial to create opportunities to support journalists who are forced into exile because of these threats.

Raissa Carillo focused on legal strategies to address violence against women journalists in Latin America, particularly highlighting strategic litigation, legal defense, funding, and partnership with local organizations. She explained how litigation in this matter has a broader impact than protecting freedom of expression, as it also involves a broader protection for gender and women’s rights, as well as the rights of human rights defenders–particularly women human rights defenders. She discussed a handful of cases that have come out of the region, including the landmark Jineth Bedoya Case, in which the Inter-American Court recognized for the first time the need for States to have differentiated protocols to address violence against women journalists.

Sarah Wesonga talked about the situation in the Eastern African region, stating that women journalists are facing an increasing number of threats online and offline, and disproportionate attacks based on their gender. She discussed how, within the current legislative framework in the region, States are obligated to ensure freedom of expression and the right to equality, as well as prevent, protect, and respect the right to freedom of expression. In order to address violence against women journalists, however, these obligations must be coupled with States’ obligation to protect all persons against discrimination, including gender discrimination. She also mentioned the need for a strategic focus on addressing the issue of impunity, which is a big challenge when it comes to combating violence against women journalists.

The 90-minute discussion fostered crucial conversations about the violence women journalists face both regionally and globally, as well as strategies that need to be implemented in order to combat these issues.

Watch the webinar in English, Spanish, and French.