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Statement by IMS on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists
02 Nov. 2018

Photo: Courtesy of UNESCO

2 November 2018, Copenhagen — On International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, IMS calls for accountability for those who undermine a free press with threats and violence and celebrates the courage of women and men who continue to report the truth despite the threats they face.

“Female journalists and media workers deserve special protection as they face particularly formidable challenges in their everyday work as journalists,” says Gulnara Akhundova, Head of Global Response Department at IMS.

“In addition to the dangers facing all journalists that vary from contract-style killings to politically-motivated imprisonment, female journalists face threats of rape and physical violence that can lead to self-censorship or even worse: women retreating from democratic and peace and security processes.”

Maria Ressa, CEO of the online news organisation Rappler.com in the Philippines explained in a 2017 UNESCO report “An attack on one is an attack on all” how she had been the target of a campaign of sexualized harassment since 2016. “It began a spiral of silence. Anyone who was critical or asked questions about extrajudicial killings was attacked, brutally attacked. The women got it worst. And we’ve realised that the system is set up to silence dissent – designed to make journalists docile. We’re not supposed to be asking hard questions, and we’re certainly not supposed to be critical.”

According to UNESCO, the number of women journalists killed has been steadily increasing. While in 2012, they accounted for 4 % of 119 media workers, the percentage increased to 14 % of a total 80 victims in 2017. Women do not account for the majority of fatal victims in the profession, but they do when it comes to cases of sexual violence and online harassment. According to the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) and Troll-Busters, nearly two-thirds[1] of female journalists have been threatened or harassed online and offline while 26 % have been physically attacked[2]. The study reveals that close to 70% of respondents indicated that being a woman was a contributing factor to the attacks.

Together with others in the international community, IMS continues to work to promote safety of journalists – women and men — and address impunity for crimes against them.

On International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, we reconfirm our dedication to promoting a safe environment for male and female journalists and to calling for accountability for those who continue suppress free expression and press through threats, intimidation, and violence.

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Upcoming IMS events and publications:

– IMS #MediaToo Conference in Brussels, 5 December 2018
– Publication: Defending Journalism: Toward a gender perspective to promote the safety of journalists – to be released early 2019.

Sources: [1] According to the study, the survey “represents a global sample of women journalists and media workers. However, as the survey instrument was distributed in English, the results are limited and may not accurately detail local conditions for journalists for whom English is not their primary language”. 41% of the respondents considered themselves from the US.

[2] https://www.iwmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Attacks-and-Harassment.pdf