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CERIGUA laments lack of women's participation in and access to the media

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - The following is a 22 February 2008 CERIGUA press release:

The invisibility of women in the media

A CERIGUA report says the majority of mainstream media outlets do not adequately represent women or give credence to the important and diverse roles women play in society. Women are predominantly portrayed as victims and not as empowered actors or leaders.

The study, "Representation in the media of women's issues, August 2003 - July 2005", carried out by CERIGUA, notes that the problems women face receive little attention in the media. Practically the only women given voice in news coverage are those who work in government circles.

According to the study, media outlets do not give adequate coverage to complaints filed by women. When they do report on assaults or crimes committed against women, almost invariably the story is presented in such a way as to "excuse" the aggressors and place the blame on the woman; for example, media outlets will emphasise that an assaulted woman was walking alone on the street late at night, or that a teenager was attacked as she was leaving a place of entertainment, or that a young girl was alone in the house.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that few media outlets are run by women or have women in high-ranking positions. CERIGUA and "La Cuerda" magazine are the only media outlets in Guatemala led by women who, from their own perspective, try to present a positive and dignified image of women.

Women are part of the production team for the "Tele Diario" news programme and the "el Periódico" daily newspaper. Some women also occupy coordinating positions in the "Prensa Libre" newspaper and one woman journalist is in charge of all the supplements. Nevertheless, the information that reaches the public rarely showcases women in leadership roles.

Another factor that contributes to the invisibility of women in the media is the lack of government support for women who want to launch their own media outlets. There are no allocated funds or government policies supporting such endeavours.

One positive sign is the increase in the number of women journalists working in editorial roles in television, radio and print media.

The CERIGUA report calls for greater and more in-depth coverage of women's issues and recommends that media outlets pay special attention to these topics. CERIGUA also calls on organisations fighting for women's rights to continue in their struggle for equality for women and to develop a strategy specifically targeting the media. Finally, CERIGUA urges all Guatemalans to learn about and support the government's Policy for the Promotion and Development of Women and the Equal Opportunities Plan.

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