European Journalists Call To Strengthen Gender Equality in the Media

Women journalists today urged media leaders across Europe to strengthen gender equality in media as part of a campaign to improve working and living conditions of women in the expanding European Union.

The European Federation of Journalists conference Women Journalists in the European Integration Process, on 27-29th May in Nicosia, Cyprus, brought together 30 women journalists representing 22 unions and associations from all over Europe to address gender, quality and union rights in European media.

The conference established an EFJ women jounalists´ network, agreed to organise a Europe-wide study of the status of women journalists and adopted Guidelines for Action to improve conditions for women journalists. The conference also called for the immediate release of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her interpreter, Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, who are being held hostage in Iraq.

“Women journalists represent almost 50 per cent of the press room and more than half of media consumers are female,” said Annegret Witt-Barthel, European Coordinator of the International Federation of journalists’ Gender Council. “However, media employers show a deplorable unwillingness to support equal treatment in the work place, including equal pay and equal rights of promotion to leadership positions.”

She said inequalities at work were also highlighted in continuing media stereotypes of women in society. “Quality journalism also requires fair gender portrayal in the media,” she said.

Although the meeting welcomed European Union initatives on gender equality, there is little practical impact in the media sector. Women journalists are among those most affected by the growth of precarious freelance work. They suffer most from falling social standards and cuts in pay as well as increasing hours of work. There is a persistant lack of support to reconcile work and family needs and women often suffer from bullying and harrassment.

The conference recognised that globalisation in media threatens freedom of information and worsens working conditions for journalists and freelance writers, and it has a particular impact on the struggle to obtain equality between men and women journalists. The meeting said the European Union and national governments should consider the right to information as a social issue and not subject it to the dictates of the market.

The participants held three training workshops on union and media leadership as well as on the portrayal of women in media and emerged with practical guidelines for improving the status of women at work. “Media globalization is rolling back improvements gained over the past 20 years,” said Witt-Bartel. “Our unions need to give priority to gender equality. They can do that by ensuring proportional representation of women in unions’ decision making bodies.”

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The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in more than 30 countries