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TUC women's conference: Why media must protect its staff

15 March 2012

An NUJ motion at the TUC Women's conference, urging media organisations to ensure women journalists are safe in their work, has been passed unanimously.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, proposing the motion said:

"The NUJ and the International Federation of Journalists both provide advice and assistance for women journalists who face working in dangerous situations. It is also the duty of media organisations to ensure that their staff and freelances covering war and revolution are safe.
"Women often find that they are put under greater risk than their male colleagues, but the answer is not that of Reporters Sans Frontiers – calling on editors to stop sending women journalists to cover the protest in Tahrir Square, where women reporters were coming under attack, but to make sure that gender-specific health and safety policies are in place."

The conference also heard from columnist, blogger and NUJ member, Cath Elliot, who gave a graphic account of the tide of vitriol and the violent and sexual nature of the abuse she has received for "the crime of writing as a female".

Cath Elliot said:

"Many of these remarks can be found on the comment threads of publications such as the Guardian and New Statesman; these papers need to respond to them. Women should be able to do their jobs without being subject to abuse and threats of rape."

The NUJ motion was seconded by BECTU.

The motion in full:

Safety of women journalists

Conference notes that women journalists, particularly those covering demonstrations or war zones are at risk of violence, as are male journalists, but women reporters also face the possibility of sexual attacks and rape. Such dangers increase exponentially when countries experience revolution or lawlessness and recent publicised sexual attacks on women journalists in Egypt and Libya have brought this issue into focus.

Conference, however, also notes that attacks on women journalists are not confined to danger abroad. Women journalists in the UK experience safety issues involving travel, unsocial hours and risky assignments. Added to this are now cyber sexist attacks on women bloggers some of which have been extremely intimidating using gender specific, sexually violent language.

Conference condemns this practice which is yet another attempt to silence women's voices. Women journalists have the right to report and Conference deplores responses such as that of Reporters Sans Frontiers calling on editors to stop sending women journalists to cover the protest in Tahrir Square rather than condemn the perpetrators of the abuse.

Conference therefore, calls on the TUC to campaign on the issue of women workers' safety and to urge managements to include gender-specific safety awareness training in health and safety initiatives.

Tags: , tuc, women, bectu, sacking, sexism