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IFEX members call for protection for women journalists and activists to mark day against violence

November 25, 2009

The massacre and rape of at least four women journalists in the Philippines this week is emblematic of the additional risks women journalists face. That is why 40 IFEX members are marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women today, 25 November, with a joint call for action.

Spearheaded by the IFEX Gender Working Group, which is chaired by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the joint action calls attention to the many women journalists who are targeted because of their gender. They face a range of violations, including death threats, abduction, physical attacks, including assaults, flogging and killings, as well as sexual, verbal and judicial harassment.

This year, several women have been murdered or threatened with death for speaking out against corruption and violations of human rights.

On 11 January, Uma Singh, 24, a print and broadcast journalist, was viciously assaulted and killed by 15 men at her home in Dhanusa, Nepal. She investigated illegal land grabs and opposed threats to women's rights. On the night of Singh's murder, "Kantipur Daily" correspondent Manika Jha received death threats from a group who said "now it is your turn".

Natalya Estemirova, who worked for the human rights group Memorial and wrote for "Novaya Gazeta", was abducted at her home in Grozny in the Chechen Republic, on 15 July. Her bullet-riddled body was later found in neighbouring Ingushetia. Estemirova was one of the only sources of credible information for rights groups and journalists outside the region.

In July, Lubna Ahmed Hussein, an outspoken Sudanese journalist, women's rights activist, and UN employee was arrested at a restaurant along with several other women for "sensational dressing up" and threatening the values of Sudanese society for wearing trousers. She and other women were sentenced to flogging, and although she went to court to overturn the charge, other women received ten lashes in the case. When women marched in the streets to protest her sentencing, 50 women lawyers, activists and journalists were arrested and beaten by police

In the spring, death threats and harassment of award-winning Mexican author, journalist and activist Lydia Cacho escalated, giving rise to fears for her safety. Cacho has been receiving death threats via her blog. Following publication in 2005 of her book on child pornography in Mexico, Cacho was illegally arrested, detained and ill treated before being subjected to a year-long criminal defamation lawsuit.

In February, Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) reports that Vanuatu journalist Esther Tinning was attacked in front of her children as they walked to school. Tinning suffered a miscarriage due to her injuries. The attacker was the subject of a feature she wrote. In Fiji, PFF says women journalists are especially under threat from a repressive military regime where there is no judicial system to protect their interests.

The 40 IFEX members are seeking justice for the murders of these women journalists and to protect those who are threatened. The joint action urges national governments, police agencies and employers to protect women journalists, human rights defenders, writers and bloggers and invest in gender-related education programmes, among several other recommendations.

Today, 25 November, also marks the beginning of 16 days of activism by the Women's International Network of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC-WIN) with an Internet campaign to denounce gender violence against media workers and to transform the media into a tool to end violence against women. Community radio producers worldwide are dedicating these 16 days to highlight efforts to end gender violence, including by promoting women's right to freedom of expression.

For more information contact:
Phone: 111-111-1111

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