Archive for the ‘World Press Freedom Issues’ Category


Lessons Learned From a Photojournalist to Her Colleagues

I am an Italian photojournalist of Croatian origin, and I have lived in Torino for many years now.

I come from the Balkans, territories devastated by wars in the nineties, which is something that lead me to this work. I grew up in a small town, where women became teachers or maybe work in the only food industry of the area, but always staying close to home. Looking back, my choice of career probably was dictated by a response to the highly sexist society I was raised in.

In the last years, my work as a photojournalist has focused on wars and conflicts taking place all over the world, and my investigative reports come from the Middle East, Africa, but also the Balkans, Russia, and Asia. I work as a freelancer, but also have my own news website.

Aleppo, Syria, © Andreja Restek / APR

Submitting your work to newspapers and find interested parties is always difficult as a freelancer, and it takes an extra effort as a woman: often, you need to work more, struggle more, and prove that you are good at your job more than usual.

But I love my job and I believe it is really essential in our world. What I find fundamental, in order to do it well, is being there in person: you can’t speak about war without seeing the frontline, you can’t write about refugees if you haven’t talked to them and haven’t been with them.

Sierra Leone, ph © Andreja Restek, 2016

Journalists have an important and noble role: our job is beautiful, and what we have to do is to be honest and report news without letting our views interfere with it. Without adding political or social implications. It’s not something easy, but it is due. We have the duty to be impartial, humble and not hypocritical.

Syria. © Andreja Retsek

When doing my job, I have the chance to give a voice to those who don’t have it. Often the people I interview gift us with the only thing they have left: their story. And that is why my priority is treating these stories with respect.

Refugees from Austria, Viaggio, Serbia, Ungheria. © Andreja Restek

A few years ago I realized that as a journalist I could do even more for those struck by war, and with some colleagues I founded an NGO which tries with small but efficient and precise projects to help people in need.

My father once told me that I live life breathing at the top of my lungs, and I would advise any colleague to follow their dreams and to “fully breath their lives”.

Andreja Restek is a photojournalist of Croatian origin living in Torino. She is the founder and director of APR news, an online newspaper that follows and monitors terrorism and terrorist groups in the world and conducts independent investigative reports on illegal trafficking and human rights. She is a member of the International Federation of Journalists and registered to the Albo dei giornalisti.

She has been invited as lecturer and guest to many events, organized among others by UNICEF, University of Torino, Salone Internazionale del libro di Torino, Associazione vittime del terrorismo, Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), RAI, Festival dell’Europa solidale e del Mediterraneo, photography clubs. She was the artistic director of the International Security Festival 2017 in Vicenza.

In 2016 she published “Siria, dove dio ha finito le lacrime,” a photographic book collecting her salient work regarding the Syrian war. You can follow her work on Twitter and aprnews.net.

If you or someone you know would like to share her narrative, please fill out the following form and a member of the International Community will contact the nominee. 

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Overcoming the Challenges of Being a Woman in Journalism Abroad

I’ve started as a professional photojournalist in Egypt. Indeed, in 2012 I had the opportunity to have an internship at the local newspaper Egypt Independent just out of school and only one year after the Egyptian Revolution. I couldn’t wish for a better opportunity.

Nevertheless, I was terrified to live in that area as a 24-year-old single, young woman with no concrete experience in the field. I’ve followed the Arab Spring thoroughly and what struck me from the events in Cairo was the sexual assault on Lara Logan, a correspondent for the American network CBS.  

In the wake of this assault, other cases came out in the news, describing it like one of the many problems of Egypt: sexual harassment on women. Doing my best to mask that notion, I did my best to overcome my anxiety and started my first day of work on at the same time of the first anniversary of the revolution on January 25, 2012.

Of course, I wasn’t alone. I was accompanied by male photographers. I knew that mass sexual assault mainly happened in crowded places, but as a photojournalist I couldn’t avoid the gathering of Tahrir Square. Two colleagues protected me from the crowd, but I could still feel hands groping me below the waist once I started to take pictures in the square.

Immediately I turned back to see who it was, but it was impossible to know who it was in the turmoil and crowds. My first day as a professional, it was very frustrating and scary. I couldn’t imagine myself working in those conditions everyday. On that day, I was lucky. It didn’t go further than “just” hands on my behind. I’ve lived and worked in Egypt for two years and half since that day. I faced situations of sexual harassment, but it never went further than touching but that itself is something already serious.

In Cairo, I’ve learned to react and never stay quiet when it happens. So did my other female friends. Some say that Egyptian men react like that to dissuade women to go down the streets and protest. Others say that it’s a social problem linked to financial issues and the frustration of men not able to get married. In Egyptian culture, it is not seen positively to have sexual relations before being wed.

I don’t know why we try to find an excuses. It’s a crime that should be punished immediately. I’ve learned to find solutions to this issue: be careful and direct in my reaction whether I am Egypt or any country. Women are typically seen as more vulnerable just because we’re doing work mainly surrounded by men, especially in a conflict zone.

What I want to say out of this testimony is that even if we feel weaker and more vulnerable, there are ways to be stronger. We should never give up and let it go. Each time a man touched me in the crowd or touched a friend, I would always scream and defend myself. We need to show all men that we are not weak prey. They will never dissuade me to do my work. This strength brought me to where I am now.

I did not let my frustration from January 25th overcome me. As the time passes, I realize that being a female photojournalist has many advantages. For example, we have more access to the intimacy of a family being a woman. A man alone would struggle to photograph the daily life of a Muslim family if the husband is not at home. For this access, I feel relief to be a woman and never wish to be a man for the work I’m doing.

Our vulnerability, we can make something about it, either by ourselves or by raising awareness around us. But the access we have as women, men can’t do anything about it and maybe this is why I feel that a story realize by a woman will always have something more intimate with more emotions than the same story made by a man.

If you look at Stéphanie Sinclair’s work, “Too Young to be Wed,” would a man be able to do the same? Same with Brenda Anne Kenneally’s work, I don’t think it will communicate the same emotions if a man was given the same task.

I’m Virginie Nguyen Hoang. I am 30 years old and I’ve been a professional photojournalist since 2012.

Virginie is as photojournalist currently based in Brussels. She studied journalism at IHECS (Brussels) as well as training in photojournalism at the Danish School of Media and Journalism (Denmark). She has previously worked for the French news agency Wostok Press, the Studio Hanslucas and became the co-founder of the Collectif HUMA. From January 2012  she settled in Egypt as a freelancer for local newspapers Egypt Independent and Mada masr. She’s received the Nikon Press Award Benelux in 2012. You can follow her work on Facebook.

If you or someone you know would like to share your narrative, please fill out the following form and a member of the International Community will contact the nominee. 

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French Female Pioneer is My Role Model in Journalism

My role model is a woman that died 67 years ago.

First French war correspondent and investigative journalist Andree Viollis started her career during the first World War, she traveled to Afghanistan in the 20’s and extensively to Indochina to expose the dark side of the French colonization. She covered the war in Ireland, the Spanish civil war and World War II.  What an incredibly adventurous life. She was well-known and respected. Always the first to interview the powerful leaders of Europe. As famous then was Albert Londres, who is a myth for all young French journalists.

Two years before dying at 80 years old, Viollis was still travelling to South Africa to write stories about segregation there. She even planned to cover at 80, the war in Korea that had just began. She was a mother and a practicing journalist throughout her lifetime, even when quite old! This is everything we are told that is not quite possible when you are a woman. Sadly, very few people remember her and her name is almost completely forgotten.

And in good old paternalistic France, that’s very unfortunate. Young French female journalists need to know her. Working in dangerous zones or being a war journalist for a woman is, in fact,  an old story, “not something we should always prove we are entitled or competent enough for…”

I wish I heard about her earlier in my career, especially ten years ago. I was working for a French production house where the boss was openly discriminating women. “No females on the frontline,” he used to say. Younger and less experienced male staff would be sent to the best assignments from Ivory Coast to the West bank. I stayed and struggled for three years because it was still an exciting organization to work in and the team was wonderful. Also, because I was a young and stupid, I suppose.

Eventually, in 2007 I won a prestigious award known as the Albert Londres prize for a documentary about the murder of a French NGO employees in Sri Lanka. I then left the production company.

As a freelancer, I never again was openly exposed to this kind of discrimination. The downside to that is the insecurity that comes with being independent.

The lesson I’ve learned in my career so far is to find a new employer when you are told, “this is not a story for women.”

Anne Poiret is a filmmaker and investigative broadcast journalist based in Paris. In 2007 she won the prestigious Albert Londres Prize in France for her film shot in Sri Lanka “Muttur: a Crime Against Humanitarians”. Her work with Welcome to Refugeestan (2016) on refugee camps all over the world was selected in European documentary festivals. Her latest film, The Envoy: Inside Syria Peace Negotiations focuses on the work of Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria. Stay updated on Anne and her work on Twitter @Annepoiret.

If you or someone you know would like to share your narrative, please fill out the following form and a member of the International Community will contact the nominee. 

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How Comics Empowered Me

I read a lot of comic books when I was a kid and it’s fair to say that they influenced my decision to become a journalist.

Lois Lane and Clark Kent have a lot to answer for. I might be in mid-thirties but I still have my trusty worn-out Superman sweatshirt I curl up into after spending intense days either working on investigations or sharing remarkable stories in ways that will make them interesting to a global audience. My job as a journalist at the BBC is a varied one and everywhere I go, I pop a pen and a notepad into my bag – because you just never know when a story is going to unfold in front of you. It’s a lesson I picked up at an early age thanks to roving reporter Lois Lane.

I wish I had her fashion sense but for now, I’m just pleased that she helped me find a career that I quite enjoy.

It’s not to say I didn’t have other female journalist heroes. Much like Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo from the TV series the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I too was a little bit in awe of “determined TV news reporter” April O’Neil. She was always getting up to adventures and helping them out. Surely that’s what being a reporter was about? These were strong women and I admired them.

Elizabeth Wakefield in the Sweet Valley High book series, Lynda Day in the British children’s television series Press Gang; these were accessible role models whose love of journalism and telling stories and being powerful female figures were all influential as I hit my teenage years.

I moved on and started devouring newspapers and books. I loved Mary Wollstonecraft’s writing. I was lucky that I wasn’t a shy adolescent – at least when it came to being curious about the world. In everything else, I felt like I was on the fringes of whatever “normality” was. But if there was anything to do with storytelling in whatever medium then I’d put myself forward. Work as a children’s bookseller? Yes please. Help set up a youth magazine for my borough so people my age can tell our stories? Of course.

When I got older, my local paper asked me to write a column about what life was like for a girl from a working class background to study English Language and Literature at the hallowed halls of Oxford University. It was there I saw first-hand how if I was to succeed in a highly competitive environment, I needed chutzpah. I needed to take ownership of my writing and believe in my capabilities. I also soon realised I needed to learn the art of networking – something incredibly key for any journalist to be good at. It’s through our networks we find out opportunities, are able to help each other, and get our stories the exposure they deserve.

What drives me is telling a good story. I began my career in local newspapers where I would go to court, inquests, carry out death knocks, write features, columns and learn how to make people accountable to the community around them. It was the best training any journalist could have. I then worked for an independent production company specialising in human rights stories – Insight News Television – where the documentary makers instilled in me an importance of remaining passionate about the story and the difference one journalist can make to the lives of so many others just by giving them space and a platform to share their experiences.

And then I ended up at the BBC, where I’ve been for the past nine years. I’ve worked in a variety of departments, on youth programmes, investigations, the website, World Service radio, digital newsgathering, the business unit and partnership projects. I’ve won awards and worked with the best in the industry – people whom I am in awe of everyday. I am a digital storytelling specialist and I’m glad I’ve moved across departments and allowed my passion for finding ways to stories in creative ways to drive my ambitions. One day I’ll be a verificationista – debunking fake news and investigating emerging breaking news stories; the next I’ll be figuring out the best way to get people to share a story focusing on economics and making it relatable to their lives. Then again, perhaps I’ll be popping up on a Facebook Live or researching inspirational stories of innovation.

Of course it’s difficult to be a woman working in this industry; especially when you begin to realise the importance of having a degree of a work/life balance. Life and its associated challenges doesn’t stop. We’ve all got families and commitments. But journalism is a profession which is hard to fit into a normal eight hour slot. Stories emerge at any time; or you have to follow up at times convenient to the person you need to interview. It’s key to build a strong support network around you who can help you achieve your ambitions as well as make sure you don’t sacrifice everything for work. Here at the BBC, I tried to be involved with the organisation’s pioneering Global Women in News network at its founding stages. It’s an amazing support network. I’m surrounded by amazing women producers and journalists whom I learn from every day. Women who are juggling families, caring responsibilities, multiple projects at work but still produce some incredibly creative interviews and ideas because they love their jobs so much despite its demanding nature.

And of course it’s hard not to be affected by some stories that you work on. I started at the BBC’s User Generated Content Hub when the Arab Spring kicked off in 2011.  I have extensive experience working on disinformation, of working on stories of school shootings and murders; terror attacks and other traumatic reports; of seeing unspeakable acts. But that’s when the art of resilience plays a role. I took my experiences and made them into something to learn from.

I was selected for an Ochberg Fellowship focusing on trauma journalism at the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University. My interest in that and wanting to be a better storyteller led to another fellowship, this time a Rotary International Peace Fellowship focusing on peace and conflict – something that underpins everything we do as journalists. I took a career break to do this professional development course because it was important for me to embark on this path and meet with non-journalists who worked in this field. If I understood why people worked in war zones; took up careers as peace activists; I felt I would be able to tell their stories better. I’d have more context. It’s important to defend press freedom but first I felt I needed to understand more about whose voices were the ones that people in positions of power want to suppress and why.

I’m back in London right now and currently am with the BBC’s Business and Economics Unit helping to demystify the world of business so that people understand how it affects their daily lives no matter where they are.  It’s a challenge, but then again, every role I’ve ever done has been.

In my career at the BBC I’ve been fortunate to work on big projects. One of which was called What Does Freedom Look Like? We asked the world to share their images of freedom. The season had a massive effect on me. Everything I do now I think about how as a journalist at the BBC, I am in a privileged position; able to give people a voice. When I worked on that project, I came up with the idea of creating a superhero especially for our season. We eventually commissioned a wordless comic which was shared across the World Service and our language services focusing on the idea of freedom. It was a success.

And me – I still read a lot of comic books and they still help me be a better journalist.

I have a dream – shh – that one day I’ll make it into a comic book. Maybe other kids, who don’t quite fit in will see my story and understand that it doesn’t matter what they look like, what they identify as, or what their background is; if they want to be storytellers too and they’ve got the determination to succeed, they can do it.

It won’t be easy but they can do it.

Dhruti Shah shares her story with the SPJ International Community as part of the women’s series for #PressFreedomMatters. She is an award-winning journalist, 2017 Rotary International Peace Fellow, 2015/2016 Ochberg Fellow and strategizes and produces the social media output for the BBC’s Business and Economics Unit. You can follow Shah on Twitter, Facebook, website and personal blog to keep up with her work.

If you or someone you know would like to share your narrative, please fill out the following form and a member of the International Community will contact the nominee. 

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Media Coverage of Asylum Does Not Have to be a Part of Its Humanitarian Aspect

A month ago I attended the Nobel Peace Conference in Germany. We were talking about the political situation in the world and the asylum that has become the top priority of the countries of the world. I remember specifically the story of a Syrian refugee who came out of the Syrian regime in a prisoner exchange deal, telling us her story and the death of her husband under torture.

It is a humanitarian story that summarizes the definition of asylum within some lines.

The media presentation of any asylum case should not aim to make a scoop with what is contained in documents and exclude talking about the humanitarian portion.

In the coverage of asylum news, the picture may differ from the publication of any other news. The life of the refugee and the consequences of publication are more important than the scope, that many media sources seek to do it throughout the Arab region, not only Jordan.

In one way or another, I had to remove this garment, “the journalist’s obsession with the scope,” to start following the cases in depth, highlighting the consequences in the refugee camps as a result of war, asylum and displacement rather than trying to shed light on the consequences of economic and political asylum on Jordan. We are talking about human stories that have suffered and are still suffering as a result of this asylum.

It is a complex crisis that cannot consider one part without the others.

In addition to the importance of maintaining the security of the refugee and the confidentiality of sources of information in light of the policies that intimidated the refugees from the “slander” which the government has repeatedly denied.

Although the issue of asylum has become an important part of the priorities of many female human rights defenders; several violations have been deliberately or unintentionally inflicted on the refugees as a result of political agendas that have paid for them, media coverage has continued to talk about the political and economic consequences of asylum.

Writing my story in asylum is not easy in the presence of a societal culture enshrined by the government and others by placing the Syrian asylum as the “cradle” of the country’s economic, political and social crises. Which means colliding not only with the government and organizations but also by fighting a hate speech that policies have contributed in one way or another to strengthen it. Both citizens and refugees have become victims.

The most important thing to be done by a journalist who deals with asylum issues with its human dimensions, is to clash with the very old and obsolete accusation which is the saying: She is the owner of foreign agendas.

I had faced this in the beginning of my media coverage for asylum news.

The question is have some of the headlines in the provocative media played a role in promoting hate speech towards refugees?

What happened in the follow-up to the file of asylum media was addressing the official letters related to the file of the Syrian refugees and publishing it without any analysis or considering other points of view, which clearly supported increasing the hate speech towards the refugees and changed the public opinion of continuing opening of the border to the Syrian refugees.

The hate speech in some headlines was twofold: first, the lack of objectivity in the official discourse, without any scrutiny and focus on hateful terminology and concepts, where the matter was left to reporters to interpret, by ignoring the other side.

The hate speech in some headlines was twofold. First, the lack of objectivity in the official discourse, without any scrutiny and focus on hateful terminology and concepts, where the matter was left to reporters to interpret, by ignoring the other side. Second, it is to focus on negative, not humanitarian, issues of refugees (such as crime and high unemployment).

Unfortunately, some websites and journalists do not comply with the legal text in the publications. Article 7 of the Jordanian Publications Law stipulates that the print and the journalist must not spread hatred among the people, and all those on the land of the Kingdom. Except as provided for in article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for the prohibition of any “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

As a result of many press and media coverage of asylum news that has been in the context of a systematic or nonsystematic “hate speech” that results from a lack of knowledge of human rights and criteria for covering asylum news by choosing terminology that avoids falling into the quagmire of hate speech.

The importance of female journalists knowing about the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and belief in them is important for following this file, which can not be cut off from it. Its consequences are not known or notable for some of us because you are shedding light on the right of living for a person who the life imposed him a painful reality.

As part of the coverage of the media coverage of asylum in its humanitarian dimensions, we find that the one who is keen on this dimension in media coverage in Jordan are female journalists specializing in human rights (Nadine Nimri, Rania Sarayra and Samar Haddadin, for example).

In the end, we have the right to defend the rights in our writing because it is in defense of our rights in this life. We must live away from political agendas, away from beliefs and customs, and even from what is being traded (security and safety).

And yes, there is a price and there are consequences for everyone who seeks to highlight the importance of preserving and establishing these rights, but life in dignity and defending these rights is always worth standing up to anyone who violates them only to have power.

So, I begin working with this platform #PressFreedomMatters to promote the role of female journalists in activating the fourth authority (the media) in combating the violation of these rights and ensuring the continuation of their work without any legal or political threats or obstacles.

—–

Hebatulahayat Obeidat began her career as a radio journalist for Albalad. She spent eight years in Jordan where she conducted training on election coverage, news writing and debates in Jordan, Yemen and Libya. She is a producer and presenter for the news and radio program on political and human rights. She is a member of The Regional Alliance for Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.  Her contribution above was translated from Arabic to English.

If you or someone you know would like to share your narrative, please fill out the following form and a member of the International Community will contact the nominee. 

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Call to action to honor slain journalist Javier Vladez

“The great mistake is to live in Mexico and to be a journalist” Javier Valdez, in his 2016 book Narcoperiodismo

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a working journalist.  

When reporter Javier Valdez was pulled from his car and executed in Culiacán, Sinaloa on May 15, he became the sixth member of the Mexican press to be killed in two months. The growing number is a disturbing reminder that everyone is targeted, no one is safe: print journalists, TV and radio reporters, photographers, editors, owners. In a decade-long wave of violence against journalists, parents have been gunned down in front of their children;  children in front of their parents. Murders take place in the dead of night or in broad daylight; in one of Mexico’s 32 states or in the middle of Mexico City.

The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that 25 journalists have been killed since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012. Although their murders took place independent of each other, the targeted shared a commitment to documenting aspects of drug trafficking and political corruption. In response, the Mexican government has been worse than silent: there have been almost no successful convictions of a journalist’s killer. The government’s inaction and failure to protect the press endangers not only reporters, but also freedom of expression and even Mexico’s democracy.

As members of the international press community, we have an opportunity to stand with Mexico’s journalists and to urge the Mexican government to act.

Our voice is our strength: join us, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Periodistas de a Pie in Mexico. On Thursday, June 15, a month after Javier’s murder, we will publish or broadcasting news articles, opinion pieces, editorials, political cartoons, blogs, photographs, tweets, Facebook posts, or any other form of journalism you favor.

The content is up to you – you can address his killing specifically, attacks on Mexico’s press in general, the impact of violence and impunity on freedom of expression, the government’s inaction, its failure to protect its journalists, the response of journalists worldwide. If all you’re able to do is a link to a published article or post that says it all for you, that too is welcome. We only ask that you tag your piece, post or Tweet with the hashtag #ourvoiceisourstrength and/or #nuestravozesnuestrafuerza as way of signaling to the Mexican government and to Mexico’s press that this is a collective effort.

Our voice is our strength. Join us in letting Mexican journalists know they are not alone, and the Mexican government see that the world is watching, and waiting for a solution.

#ourvoiceisourstrength, #nuestravozesnuestrafuerza

Instructions:

  1. Plan to publish or air a piece related to violence against journalists in Mexico on Thursday, June 15 in commemoration of Javier Valdez’s assassination on May 15
  2. Associate the hashtag #ourvoiceisourstrength and/or #nuestravozesnuestrafuerza with your piece so that it will be recognized as part of a collective effort
  3. Pass this message on to your international journalist contacts, colleagues and friends! Do it quickly, so people have time to respond and prepare something for June 15.
  4. If you think of it, let us know that you will publish or air something on June 15 so we have a sense of the community’s response.
  5. Everyone should craft their own approach/pitch to their jefes so that their institutions are on board — if such permission is needed.

#ourvoiceisourstrength, #nuestravozesnuestrafuerza

Sincerely,

  • Kate Doyle, Senior Analyst, National Security Archive
  • Tim Weiner, author and journalist
  • Susan Ferriss, Senior Writer, Center for Public Integrity
  • Ricardo Sandoval-Palos, Managing Editor, 100Reporters
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Breaking the Silence, Empowering Female Journalists Worldwide

“There are two groups of people that are more vulnerable during riots and marches: female police officers and female journalists.”

Last month I was in Washington D.C. getting various forms of training. During a seminar those words were directed to me from the in-house expert. The goal was to train us, the journalists, to be safe during civil unrest, marches and riots, but what left me shocked was that the expert gave me the “it is what it is” attitude. It happens. Women are more susceptible to attacks than others in these circumstances. But what are we doing to shift that attitude and ensure the safety of not just female journalists, but all journalists?

If you are a journalist going abroad on an assignment, it is so important to be prepared and proactive in any situation that may present itself. As a woman, the rules of engagement change and the reality is you can be left completely vulnerable.

There are dangers we face that most likely our male counterparts may not experience. Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists held a panel discussion with journalists on their experiences reporting on the front lines, dealing with sexualized violence, and countering gender-related threats and restrictions.

Returning from my time in the Middle East in 2014 and earlier this year interviewing refugees, there were some unfortunate obstacles I faced that left me to reassess my safety in my work.

But I’m not alone.

Just last week, I read about award-winning Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima and her struggle to gain justice after 17 years where she was abducted, tortured and raped following her report on violence at a maximum-security prison involving state officials and paramilitary groups. The painful and prolonged court system in Colombia hasn’t stopped Bedoya to fight tirelessly against and she even started a campaign in 2009, “now is not the time to remain silent”. She stands up for women and has gained strength in her fight against injustice in her case and for women in similar circumstances.

There is also Shakeela Ibrahimkhel of Afghanistan, who had to end her 10 year career at one of the country’s leading news channels to seek asylum in Germany. The continued violence, threats and harassment from the Taliban has led some 100 Afghan women to seek refuge outside of the country.

The threats don’t stop there. Just days ago the Nepal Press Freedom reported an incident of a death threat towards Sushma Paudel after  a status on Facebook. The threat against Poudel from a Canadian resident was over a story the journalist had filed.

These acts of violence, the lack of safety and the overall status of female journalists globally is alarming. Doing a simple Google search for “threats against female journalists” right now and in .51 seconds, there are about 2,820,000 results!

Although my experiences abroad do not compare to the harrowing female correspondents, freelancers and even fixers abroad, I do believe what is happening to women in our line of work should raise a red flag.

In order to understand, empower and give a voice the women around the world doing amazing work, the Society of Professional Journalists’ International Community will feature female journalists starting this month as part of a #PressFreedomMatters movement giving these women a platform to express their narrative.

Come back every Wednesday and read the stories these women have to share, the obstacles they’ve faced and how they are overcoming them.

 

If you know someone that should be featured in the weekly series, please fill out this form

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Encouragement Sees No Borders

Several weeks ago I spent a week with 70 journalists from more than 50 different countries. We traded stories and frustrations, laughed, cried, debated the future of journalism, discussed the many current conflicts occurring around the world and experienced the welcoming and rich culture of South Korea.

It was part of an annual conference organized by the Journalists’ Association of Korea. I, along with Elle Toussi and Rebecca Baker, represented the Society of Professional Journalists.

Throughout the weekend, while posing for photos with the different community leaders, we would say “화이팅hwaiting.” In English, it sounded like the word “fighting” which seemed ironic to me at the time since the theme of the JAK conference was world peace.

When I returned home, I learned it is a commonly used Korean word of encouragement, good luck, and cheer. It is commonly associated with sports and athletes. And now journalism.

I am not sure I fully realized it then, but journalists around the world, need encouragement now more than ever. While discussing the importance of a free press, free speech, and diversity in coverage and in newsrooms, you could hear the frustrations. Those frustrations included a lack of public trust in journalism, a lack of reliable information when it is needed more than ever and the apathy some feel exists in their communities.

The good news is, that while these feelings of frustration were apparent, it also was apparent that these journalists are not ready to give up and the support around them, from fellow journalists, isn’t going anywhere.

On top of that we came together to discuss how, in spite of the challenges we face, there are possible tactics and tools to use.

A common frustration for some of the journalists, especially the ones reporting in conflict zones was that credible information can sometimes be hard to obtain. Sometimes, you have leaders and people in power pushing agendas and stories, with the hope that it can help their “team.” Sometimes, journalists talked about how there is no information coming out at all.

As this discussion continued, one of the proposed solutions was to leave our emotion out of stories where you are reporting on conflict and war. This doesn’t mean not telling “real people” stories. This means that when you are trying to inform the public about a conflict or the latest on a war, don’t buy into the propaganda from either side. Stick to the facts. Your users will appreciate the hard-hitting story and hopefully trust you more for reporting the facts, and why it matters for them.

So, let’s all seek truth and report it. Minimize Harm. Act independently and be accountable and transparent. And more importantly 화이팅 hwaiting!

Lynn Walsh is the national president for the Society of Professional Journalists. Connect with her on Twitter, @LWalsh.

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Rebecca Baker Reflects on World Journalism Conference in Seoul

     After traveling more than 6,000 miles to attend the World Journalists Conference in South Korea, I was prepared for culture shock. I was prepared to hear about the wide-ranging experiences journalists face in far-flung countries. I was prepared to hear stories far different from my own.
     What I wasn’t prepared for was learning how journalists around the world are all dealing with the same things: Layoffs and cutbacks. Concern about career opportunities. Annoying bosses and bureaucratic corporate culture. Frustration over government obfuscation.
     One of the most striking conversations was with female journalists from India, Australia and Iran, three of the most different places one can imagine. And yet we all shared a similar experience—sexist, misogynistic comments from trolls on our stories. In one case, a reporter was attacked for simply encouraging racial and gender diversity among financial advisors. Some were more severe than others, but what amazed me was how each moved past the disparaging remarks—and threats, in some cases—to continue doing important reporting on social issues. As the saying goes, nevertheless, they persisted.
     Despite our different backgrounds, we shared a passion for news stories, for uncovering wrongdoing, for affecting positive change. We had other traits in common—similar senses of humor, a healthy skepticism of authority and a general disdain of pomp and circumstance. It’s what bonded us, to some degree, and created friendships that I hope continue for years to come.
     I left the conference with a new appreciation of the work that journalists are doing in counties such as Serbia, Argentina and Italy. The journalists I met may not be aware of SPJ’s Code of Ethics, but they are meeting those standards every day. They are seeking truth and reporting it, acting independently; being accountable and transparent and minimizing harm. They reminded me of the importance of the work we do and the work that SPJ fights for and champions year after year.
     The journalists I met deserve a toast for their hard work and dedication. I raise a glass to them all.
—–

Rebecca Baker is managing editor of the New York Law Journal, the largest-circulation legal daily newspaper in the country. She has been a reporter for The (Bergen) Record in New Jersey, The Journal News in Westchester County, New York, and the New Haven Register in Connecticut.

She is a member of SPJ’s national board as Region 1 Director, overseeing all student and professional SPJ chapters in the Northeast. She is on the advisory council of The Deadline Club in New York City, where she also served as president, awards contest chairwoman and events chairwoman.

More than 90 journalists from over 55 countries gathered from April 2-8 for the World Journalists Conference in South Korea. The Society of Professional Journalists represented by Lynn Walsh, Rebecca Baker and Elle Toussi attended the conference. For more information about the conference and any other international journalism conferences please reach out to the SPJ International Community here.
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Editorial Independence of VOA Threatened By New Law

Politico reported this week a provision included in the just-passed National Defense Authorization Act would get rid of the bipartisan board running Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other news outlets with a single CEO nominated by the president.

The Voice of America has had a long and strong reputation for presenting the news in a fair and balanced nature in spite of the political winds blowing in Washington. Efforts by administrations to slant the news or to not report events with the full vigor expected of journalists have all failed.

The independence of the VOA was first drafted in 1960 and then signed into law by Pres. Gerald R. Ford.

The Code of Ethics for VOA journalists is also very clear what their role is:

“VOA reporters and broadcasters must strive for accuracy and objectivity in all their work. They do not speak for the U.S. government. They accept no treatment or assistance from U.S. government officials or agencies that is more favorable or less favorable than that granted to staff of private-sector news agencies. Furthermore, VOA professionals, careful to preserve the integrity of their organization, strive for excellence and avoid imbalance or bias in their broadcasts.”

All this was possible because of the multi-party nature of the board of governors that controlled the VOA and other broadcast outlets. Now, according to the Political piece: “Essentially, Trump is finally getting his Trump TV — financed by taxpayers to the tune of $800 million per year.”

The SPJ stood up for the reporters and editors of VOA when the George W. Bush Administration tried to prevent VOA from interviewing and airing its exclusive interviews with the leadership of the Taliban just as the Afghanistan war was starting.

Numerous VOA reporters received the highest awards the SPJ offered for reporting over the years.

All this could change because of a provision slipped into the authorization bill by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce. He argued the CEO structure would make VOA more efficient.

What it also does is make the VOA susceptible to pressure from the White House to become a propaganda organ rather than an honest news organization.

 

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