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IFEX members highlight risks faced by female journalists on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy after being beaten by security forces on 23 November
Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy after being beaten by security forces on 23 November

Mona Eltahawy

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November, IFEX members remembered murdered female journalists from around the world, took stock of tactics used to intimidate female advocates, writers and reporters, and suggested ways various stakeholders could better support female journalists in the field.

Among the countries with the highest rate of crimes targeting female journalists are Russia, where 25 female journalists have been killed due to their work since 1994, Mexico, where four female reporters were murdered with impunity in 2011 alone, and the Philippines, where seven female writers and broadcasters have been killed since 2005, according to a special newsletter put out by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to commemorate the day.

The tactics vary from country to country. "In Iran, it is the threat of imprisonment, in Libya and Egypt, it is the rise of sexual attacks, and in Somalia, shooting," says IFJ Gender Council Chair Mindy Ran.

Bahrain is another hotspot for impunity for those who kill, torture and threaten women, reports the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). Four women have been killed since pro-democracy protests began earlier this year, including two women who choked to death in the excessive tear gas fired at protests and a third woman who died after she fainted when security forces broke into her home, BCHR reports. Women and girls who protested against the imprisonment of their family members were themselves jailed and some were tortured.

On 23 November, Caroline Sinz, a French reporter with Agence France-Presse, was sexually assaulted by a mob while covering a protest in Egypt's Tahrir Square. The assault lasted 45 minutes before a group of Egyptians rescued Sinz, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Also on that day, Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American journalist, was jailed for 12 hours, beaten by security forces and repeatedly groped by policemen, RSF and CPJ report.

Since 25 November, the Women's International Network of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC-WIN) has been participating in the U.S.-based, Center for Women's Global Leadership's 16 Days Campaign against Violence on Women. Community broadcasters around the globe highlight the campaign, which focuses this year on state violence, by telling the stories of women who have been targeted for political reasons, sexually assaulted during conflict or assaulted at the hands of police or military forces. Poetry, music, debates and interviews on the subject are also being featured on community radio stations around the world. Many of the shows can also be accessed on AMARC's website in a podcast format.

In a letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Ran and IFJ secretary general Beth Costa urged the UN to support safety trainings and better working conditions for female journalists in hostile environments and demand justice in the cases of female journalists who have been recently tortured, jailed and/or murdered in Somalia, Mexico, Iran, Russia, the Philippines, Israel and Nepal.

IFJ also laments the reality that in many countries, it is taboo to report on sexual assaults, which encourages impunity and limits the information women and girls have regarding their own safety.

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