International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 2022

  • 25 Nov 2022

The NUJ sent a message of solidarity to the women taking part and reporting on the protests in Iran, following the killing of Mahsa Amini by the "morality police".

Natasha Hirst, chair of the union’s Equality Council, said:

“We are thinking of women in Iran who are showing such courage in resisting the oppression they face. Discrimination and violence against women won't stop without men playing their part and it is heartening to see many men in Iran acting as allies. Our solidarity goes to all those acting in support of their protests, including Iran's football team who refused to sing the national anthem at their World Cup match against England. 

“Our Iranian members and their families are working and living under frightening conditions as a result of reporting on the situation in Iran. Without the efforts of journalists exposing such human rights violations, those who abuse their power would continue to be free to do so. I urge our members to show solidarity and amplify the voices of women resisting oppression in Iran and elsewhere around the world.”

Since the protests, the level of intimidation and threats made to journalists in the UK, at BBC Persian Service and Iran International, have escalated. Journalists are now under police protection after death threats.

In March, the BBC World Service, supported by the NUJ, filed an urgent appeal to the United Nations against Iran over the online violence faced by women journalists working for BBC News Persian, saying they face daily, relentless online attacks and harassment, including threats of rape and death. Women working for the service have reported suffering significant and serious mental and physical health issues, including anxiety, anxiety attacks, psychological trauma and depression, requiring therapy and medical intervention.

BBC Persian presenter Rana Rahimpour took part in an NUJ video, with other women members, outlining the abuse they have received online and offline during their work.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, spoke of the plight of members under attack from the Iranian authorities at the International Federation of Journalists’ gender council's conference on Women in Unions: building power, Fighting for safety. She said the union had launched a mini-app safety toolkit with lots of information and advice, including how women can protect themselves from online abuse and report the perpetrators.

One consequence of the sheer volume of abuse is that it has become normalised as part of the job. Only a quarter reported abuse to their employer because they did not trust them to act. Women feel that they have to “suck it up” said Michelle, but that must stop. The NUJ was taking practical steps to change this culture and as a member of the UK government’s National Committee for the Safety of Journalists was working with industry bodies, the police and judiciary.

At the IFJ conference Julie Posetti, a senior International Centre for Journalists’ researcher and co-author of the Unesco report, The Chilling, said that 20 per cent of the women surveyed said that online abuse had led to targeting offline. While online abuse has a significant psychological impact, in other cases such as that of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia there was a direct link to her murder. The research found that 41 per cent of the abuse was part of orchestrated disinformation campaigns by government states.

In all cases it was about trying to silence women’s voices and it has a chilling effect, with journalists removing themselves from social media networks and avoiding reporting on certain subjects.

Maria Angeles Samperio, IFJ gender council chair, said:

" We hear again and again female colleagues' frightening stories about online abuse. We hear about colleagues leaving the profession, suffering traumatic stress disorders. It is high time for media organisations to adopt concrete policies to counter this phenomenon and stand by their female staff, whether employed or freelance. This is not a situation any woman should be facing on her own. Online abuse is not part of the job."

The IFJ has published a set of guidelines for media and unions to combat online harassment of women journalists. The NUJ is working with the IFJ to promote ILO Convention 190 on harassment and violence at work. Dominique Pradalie, IFJ president, said:

"Twenty-one countries in the world have ratified this convention and many countries that call themselves democracies have failed to do so. We urge governments to ratify Convention 190 and its recommendation 206 as unique instruments to tackle violence against women in the world of work.”

The convention provides a framework and blueprint for unions to use as part of collective bargaining and workplace polices for all workers, freelance and staff and includes domestic violence.

António Guterres, UN secretary-general, said:

“Every 11 minutes, a woman or girl is killed by an intimate partner or family member — and  stresses from the COVID-19 pandemic to economic turmoil will inevitably lead to even more physical and verbal abuse. This year’s theme — UNITE: Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls — means standing with activists around the world who are calling for change and supporting survivors of violence. I call on governments to increase funding by 50 per cent to women’s rights organisations and movements by 2026."

Tweet your support at #IDEVAW2022

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More materials and resources from the NUJ 

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