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Why press freedom matters for gender equality

A free press is essential to the functioning of a fair, equal, and accountable society. The free speech of women and their consequent access to justice is, however, impeded when reporting is inaccurate, intrusive, and misrepresents the context of violence against women and girls. 

The persistence of gender stereotypes and discrimination in the media remains one of the major overall challenges to women’s empowerment and gender equality, according to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

The press and the Beijing Platform for Action

As part of the Beijing Platform for Action, signed by 189 governments in 1995, governments committed to “promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media”.

The media were encouraged to:

  • Develop, consistent with freedom of expression, professional guidelines, and codes of conduct and other forms of self-regulation to promote the presentation of non-stereotyped images of women
  • Establish, consistent with freedom of expression, professional guidelines, and codes of conduct that address violent, degrading or pornographic materials concerning women in the media, including advertising
  • Develop a gender perspective on all issues of concern to communities, consumers and civil society

Celebrating journalists this #WorldPressFreedomDay

On World Press Freedom Day, we asked some of the journalists we work with why gender equality matters to them:

“The Thomson Reuters Foundation covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely and fairly, which includes in many places, women. One of the best parts of my job has been meeting women and girls across West Africa who are doing incredible things despite all the odds stacked against them. I will feel proud if I can play a small role in helping their voices be heard.”

Nellie Peyton – Thomson Reuters Foundation

“In every equation of development, gender sits at the center. So my work is to remind everyone of what gender equality means and how we would all suffer from unequal development if gender is displaced.”

Moraa Obiria – Daily Nation, Kenya

“Empowering women and girls is empowering a society. The media is a game-changer and a pace-setter in achieving gender equality in society.”

Nicky Gitonga – Citizen TV, Kwale County, Kenya

“If we invest in women and girls, the world could become a much better place,”

William Wise – SLBC, Sierra Leone

“I am inspired to write about women and girls because of my passion to advocate for gender equality. My greatest joy and inspiration comes from seeing a girl or a woman achieve their rights through my stories.”

Philomena Kilonzo – Star Newspaper, Kenya

“I have a desire to see change in my community and touch the lives of many people and most importantly be a voice to the most vulnerable,”

Josphat Kinyanjui – NTV, Kenya

“As a journalist based in one of the hotspots of gender-based violence in Kenya, one of my duties is to write stories in a way that promotes advancement and equality between men and women. In my work in the Maasai community in Narok County, I tell stories to help foster change in public opinion, attitudes, and behavior to stop gender-based violence including Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, and any other harmful practice against women and girls.”

George Sayagie – Daily Nation, Narok County, Kenya

“We are all born of a woman and we all have women in our lives. When we invest in women, we invest in the world because there is no better way to secure development than empowering women and girls and stopping the patriarchy weaponizing gender.”

Rose Mirembe – The East African

Read more about the impact of harmful media stereotypes on gender equality and access to justice.