Reporting while female – What Bedoya’s World Press Freedom (Guillermo) Prize means for plurality of voices in the media

“Pay attention…We are sending a message to the press in Colombia.” The millitants while they raped her.

Jineth

Lima

Ms Lima (center) with Michelle Obama (left) and Hillary Clinton (right) during the International Women of Courage Awards in 2012.

Jineth Bedoya Lima a female Colombian journalist is the 10th female and 24th laureate of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Day Prize for 2020 – and we dont take this lightly. Her resume epitomizes the constant struggle and threat lurking in (especially to female) journalists every-day work life.

You see, Ms Lima (1974) who covers armed conflict and sexual violence against women has first hand experience of this threat. She has been a victim of millitary abduction, torture and rape on two separate occassions while she worked with El Espectador and La Modelo newspapers respectively. The first was on one fateful day in 2000, while covering an arms trafficking case for the El Espectador daily newspaper, she was abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted… and dumped by the trash to be found by a taxi…

In court, this case was dragged along for over a decade and it was not until she appealed at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights that one commandor confessed to being one of her three abductors.

Ms Lima’s prize is timely, uplifting and significant in many ways – surfice to mention just two:

First, the safety of journalists especially female journalists off and online is increasingly worrisome. On a day to day basis, (female) journalists face death threats, sexual harassment, intimidation, jail and rape (the later, as in Ms Lima’s case is often used as a political tool). Many of such cases are not reported due to powerful cultural taboos,  professional stigmas and well as poor economic stature for many journalists.

Secondly, Impunity for Human Rights crimes against journalists due to non-existant or toothless legislation is also cause for worry. The UNESCO report below indicates not only is there a rise in the murder of journalists in the line of duty, 90% of attackers have not been convicted. The Reporters without Borders and UNESCO also warm of the rising threats to journalists during covid-19.

The psychological consequences of the threats to journalists coupled with impunity for perpetuators poses the danger a) for many (female) reporters – often, traumatized and without proper support structures resort to self-censorship and retreat from the public sphere and from their work thus b) effectively silencing their voices and diversity. Silencing journalists endangers plurality of voice, democracy and society.

Lima’s Prize is not just a celebration of journalists’ courage and tenacity. It also is a loud and clear reminder that women are strong, survivors and vital for the profession and for democracy but more importantly, their safety, along with all journalists must be protected especially during these ‘infodemic’ times.

Promote safety of (female) Journalists:

  • Through supportive newsroom practices, cultures and support structures to promote acceptance, support, accurate information (not stereotypes)
  • Provide digital safety to (female) journalists
  • Helpline for (female) journalists caught up in line of duty and post-traumatic events
  • Advocacy – to raise awareness, combat impunity, institution of legislations (with teeth)
  • Research and expose abuse of human rights

Happy World Press Freedom Day (May 3) celebrations.

Sources

Violence against female Journalists

UNESCO survey on violence against female reporters

UNESCO Report on the Intensifiction of murder of Journalists

Also, Where does your country lie on the World Press Freedom Index?

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