Tokyo 2020: Time's up for sexism in sports

The Olympic Games will begin in Tokyo, Japan, on July 23, bringing together world athletes and sports reporters. Ahead of the opening ceremony, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is calling on sports federations, media organisations, journalists and trade unions to eradicate sexism in sports.

A member of Japan's women's national football team carries the torch on March 25, 2021. Credits: KIM KYUNG-HOON / POOL / AFP

"Women journalists are willing to report on sports, but many are subject to discrimination, and few have access to leading roles in this sector,” said Maria Angeles Samperio, chair of the IFJ’s Gender Council. “The treatment of women sports journalists by media reflects the one of female athletes by sports federations, and it has to stop. We need inclusive sports reporting, equal treatment for all sports journalists and no more sexism in sports.

The 2020 Olympics will be based around diversity and inclusion. Under the motto "Know Differences, Show differences" the Games will allegedly "embrace ‘Diversity’ by celebrating the differences of individuals, while ‘Inclusion’ will see people accepted and respected regardless of age, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or intellectual or physical impairment."

This year's Olympics preparation has already seen the chief of the organising committee Yoshiro Mori resign in February after making sexist remarks about women in sports administration. The creative director for the opening ceremony and closing ceremonies, Hiroshi Sasaki, has also resigned after making a sexist comment about female entertainer Naomi Watanabe, whom he likened to a pig. 

In the run-up to the Olympic Games, the IFJ wrote to the games governing body to express its concern about sexism in the world of sport while calling for the safety and well-being of female competitors and journalists, insisting sporting values must prevail and warning that it is intolerable women are subjected to harassment, gender-based violence, insults and humiliation. 

Recent findings of the Global Media Monitoring Project published on July 14, show that only 9% of stories on the main news pages and in newscasts worldwide are about sports. Women only make up 15% of news subjects in stories about sports while representing between 1 and 7% of sports journalists depending on the media.

The IFJ is concerned that the representation of women in sports news does not reflect the reality of the athletes and journalism. 

"In recent years we have seen scores of women journalists denouncing sexism in sports and unions must listen to these calls and act,” added IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger. “The Olympic Games is an opportunity to cover sports differently and encourage media organisations to adopt clear strategies to eradicate sexism in sports journalism and beyond.

Ahead of the Games' opening, the IFJ:

1. calls on sports federations to launch prevention campaigns to condemn attacks against women journalists;

2. calls on media organisations to recruit more women in newsroom sports sections, adopt policies to eradicate sexism such as guidelines tackling harassment, equal pay and equal opportunities policies;

3. calls on journalists to ensure their sports reporting is inclusive and avoid gender stereotypes; 

4. calls on trade unions worldwide to contribute to the protection of women journalists in sports 

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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