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UN expert calls for end to gender-based violence against women journalists

GENEVA (8 July 2020) – Women journalists face special dangers while doing their jobs, and governments must do more to protect them against gender-based violence, Dubravka Šimonović, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said today in a report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Since 1992, 96 women journalists have been killed while doing their jobs. More male journalists die every year but women journalists face “sexual assault and rape, and particularly the threat of rape, which is used as a tool to undermine their credibility and discourage them from working in the media,” she said.

Šimonović called on governments to make it possible for women journalists to work safely by fully implementing human rights instruments that are specifically aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and gender-based violence.

Popular movements around the world – such as #MeToo and #NiUnaMenos – have highlighted sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence and have provided a platform for women journalists to speak up against abuse. However, many are still reluctant to do so, the report says.

The expansion of the Internet and digital platforms is a double-edged sword for women. New social digital spaces are transforming and reshaping society, but also enabling new forms of online violence against women.

“Women journalists have become increasingly targeted as visible and outspoken representatives of women’s rights,” said Šimonović. Journalists face even higher levels of discrimination if they are not only women, but also indigenous, from a minority, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex.

“Despite some progress, much remains to be done” Šimonović said, “particularly in view of the emerging fundamentalist discourse and the global backlash against women’s rights.”

“In view of the alarming increases in gender-based violence against women around the world, including women journalists, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I renew my call to all countries to support the elaboration of a UN system wide coordinated approach or strategy to combat and prevent violence against women and a global implementation plan on violence against women,” she said. “Women have a right to be safe in their own homes. Any measures to combat the pandemic must respect human rights and take into account the needs of women in line with the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for ‘Peace at home’,” she said.

Šimonović also presented two country visit reports on Bulgaria and Ecuador.

ENDS

Ms Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015, to recommend measures, ways and means, at the national, regional and international levels, to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences. Ms. Šimonović has been member of the CEDAW Committee from 2002 to 2014. She headed the Human Rights Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia and was the Minister Plenipotentiary at the Permanent Mission of Croatia to the UN in New York. She was also Ambassador to the OSCE and UN in Vienna. She co-chaired the Ad hoc Committee (CAHVIO) of the Council of Europe that elaborated the Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). She has a PhD in Family Law and published books and articles on human rights and women's rights.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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