Side Event

Female and outspoken:

The twofold burden facing women human rights defenders and journalists Responses from Armenia, Russia and Turkey

Convener: Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe in co-operation with International Media Support,

13.00-14.00, 1 October 2019, Room 2, Palais de l’Europe

Threats of rape or physical violence and graphic imagery show up in their inboxes and on their social media platforms as they go about their workday. Not only do female journalists and women human rights defenders (WHRD) navigate the dangers of speaking out, they also face risks because of their gender.

In March the 47 members of the Council of Europe adopted a Recommendation aimed at preventing and combating sexism in all spheres of life, specifically drawing attention to the link between sexism and violence. Gender-based violence, both digital and physical, pose a threat to freedom of expression and access to information and is, thereby, violating human rights of individual female journalists and WHRDs. Silencing female journalists and WHRDs constitutes an attack on democracy itself as it leads to self-censorship: women retreating from the public sphere because of the harassments. This leaves the male-dominated field of media with even fewer female voices.

Female journalists and women human rights defenders are killed, assaulted, threatened or defamed – all for fighting for their rights. A society in which online haters and cyberbullies intimidate and harass female reporters and activists with sexist tactics can never thrive and can never be prosperous. It is necessary to act NOW to protect plurality and challenge the patriarchal structures that damage our society.

Gulnara Akhundova, Head of Global Response Department, International Media Support (Denmark)

Lara Aharonian, Director of the Women’s Ressource Centre in Yerevan (Armenia)
Barış Altıntaş, President of Media and Law Studies Association (Turkey)
Aleksandrina Elagina, Investigative journalist (Russia)

Bio of panelists

Gulnara Akhundova (Moderator)is Head of International Media Support (IMS) Global Response Department and a human rights defender with wide-ranging international advocacy expertise. Akhundova has reported on and advocated for scores of journalists and media workers who have been censored, threatened, intimidated, unjustly prosecuted, imprisoned, attacked, blackmailed or murdered. She specialises in Eurasia politics, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Central Asia, Georgia, Russia, Turkey, international human rights law, Council of Europe & UN Human Rights Council.  Akhundova has contributed stories on violations of press freedom to a number of international media outlets, including French Liberation, the Independent, and Huffington Post.

Lara Aharonian (Panelist) is the director of the Women’s Ressource Centre in Yerevan. She was one of the directors of a 2009 documentary film called “Finding Zabel Yesayan” about the life of the writer and dissident Zabel Yesayan. She has been recognised as a “Woman of Courage” by the United Nations.

Alexandrina Elagina (Panelist)is a Russian investigative journalist and media manager. She was editor-in-chief for Russiangate, an investigative media outlet which was launched in 2016 and has focused on investigations of Russia’s business and political elite.

Evin Baris Altintas (Panelist) is a Turkish journalist and blogger who has been in the media professionally since 2005. Most of her journalistic work has focused on domestic politics in Turkey, environmental issues, women’s rights, science communication, and Internet freedoms and censorship. She is the President of the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) which is a Turkish non-profit organisation founded in late 2017 in response to an urgent yet growing need for going back to democracy and normalisation in Turkey. She has 15 years of working as a journalist in Turkey.