Sri Lanka’s media does not pay sufficient attention to issues of special concern to women, according to civil society representatives surveyed as part of a media and human rights project conducted by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
The survey of 40 non-government organisations found that almost all thought the media did not give women a voice or allow adequate opportunities for them to express their views within the media, while 87% thought the Sri Lankan media’s coverage of gender issues was weak.
These views were backed up by monitoring of 22 Sinhala, Tamil and English newspapers in May-June 2007, which revealed that reports on issues related to women accounted for less than 1% (0.844%) of all reports.
The survey also interviewed more than 100 journalists, of whom a third were women. Among the journalists, 45% thought that media coverage of gender discrimination issues was very low.
More than two-thirds of the journalists thought the media had not done enough to provide accurate, balanced and fair information on disadvantaged groups, including women.
In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, the CPA and the IFJ call on media institutions and journalists in Sri Lanka to adopt a concrete strategy to redress media discrimination against women and to offer reportage that fairly reflects the views and perspectives of all people, including women.
“In failing to report fairly on women and to give them space to express their views, media outlets do the whole community a disservice and also turn a blind eye to the great potential for increasing their audience share,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“Improved media coverage of issues of concern to women is an important public service that will help to overturn entrenched discrimination against women at all levels of society.”
The survey was conducted as a part of a larger project on human rights funded by the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights of the European Commission (EC).
The IFJ has worked with CPA, the Free Media Movement (FMM) and other groups in Sri Lanka to encourage gender equity in media and greater respect for women journalists. In 2006, five major media organisations agreed upon a gender charter. The IFJ, CPA and FMM will host a national gender summit in April 2008.
Gender equity is one of six key goals that direct the work of the IFJ and its local affiliates across Asia-Pacific. In Nepal in 2006, the IFJ and the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) established a charter for gender equity in media and journalism to boost equality of opportunity and equal rights for journalists as parents and to promote an equitable portrayal of women in the media.
Representation of women and equal rights in the newsroom and in the membership and leadership of journalists’ unions and professional associations are incorporated and encouraged in all IFJ projects.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries