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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN JOURNALISTS INCREASING

Violence against women journalists is increasing worldwide, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) warned on the eve of International Women's Day (IWD), celebrated annually on 8 March.

"More and more women journalists are the victims of murder, arrest, threats or intimidation," RSF said. At the same time, "more and more women are working as journalists, holding riskier jobs in the media and doing investigative reporting likely to upset someone." The most striking case, RSF said, is that of Anna Politkovskaya's recent murder in Moscow. "This mother of two paid with her life for her opposition to the Russian government's policies in Chechnya."

Of the 82 journalists killed worldwide in 2006, 11 per cent (nine) were women, a higher percentage than in recent years. So far, though, no woman journalist has been killed in 2007.

Other cases in the former Soviet Union include Ogulsapar Muradova, Radio Free Europe's correspondent in Turkmenistan. Arrested after producing reports critical of the authorities and helping a French journalist to make a TV documentary, she died in prison in September. In neighbouring Uzbekistan, journalist and human rights activist Umida Niyazova has been detained since 22 January. (See item #2 on Uzbekistan.)

Women reporters have been victims of violence by armed groups in Iraq. Atwar Bahjat of Al-Arabiya TV station was killed after she and her crew were abducted while covering a bombing of a Shiite shrine in February. Unusually, for Iraq, her murderer was caught and sentenced to death a few months later.

Reem Zeid of Iraq's Sumariya television station was kidnapped with a colleague on 1 February 2006. RSF says it has no news of her since then. Eight women, including six foreign reporters, have been taken hostage in Iraq since it was invaded in March 2003.

In Lebanon, LBC television star presenter May Chidiac returned to work in July, ten months after being maimed by a bomb.

Seven women journalists are currently known to be in prison in connection with their work. They are Munusamy Parameshawary (Sri Lanka), Saidia Ahmed (Eritrea), Serkalem Fassil (Ethiopia), Rabiaa Abdul Wahab (Iraq), Umida Niyazova (Uzbekistan), Agnes Uwimana Nkusi (Rwanda) and Tatiana Mukakibibi (Rwanda).

To commemorate IWD, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) is streaming special pre-recorded material from its 8 March website. The broadcast will focus on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
In Canada, PEN Canada writers will hold an evening of women's readings at the Toronto Women's Bookstore on 15 February.
To commemorate IWD this year, International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee is focusing on four cases of the over 60 women writers and journalists who have come under attack for practicing their right to freedom of expression in the past year. Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead by an assassin at her home in Moscow in October 2006. In January this year, Uzbek, journalist and human rights activist Umida Niyazova was arrested and is still in prison awaiting trial. Serkalem Fasil, an Ethiopian journalist, is in detention under appalling conditions, and gave birth to a son in prison in June. In Vietnam, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy lives under constant harassment and threat for her writings.

Amnesty International has called for the immediate and unconditional release of over 30 women activists arrested on 4 March while staging a peaceful demonstration in Tehran. Amnesty said the arrests may have been intended to deter activists from marking International Women's Day.

The International Women?s Media Foundation (IWMF) will host a live online chat from 8 to 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday 7 March. Featuring participants in the IWMF?s Maisha Yetu project to improve health coverage in African media, the chat will promote the theme, ?Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls.?

Visit these sites:
- AMARC: www.march8.amarc.org.
- IWMF: www.iwmf.org/chat/view/9845
- PEN Canada: http://www.pencanada.ca/media/IWD07.pdf
- PEN Appeals: http://www.pencanada.ca/media/IWD_PEN_07.pdf
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=21199
- Amnesty International: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE130222007
(Image courtesy of AMARC)

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