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Hashtag Generation launches Reform Charter for Media Houses to bring gender equality.

ECONOMYEXT – A Media Gender Charter launched by Hashtag Generation in Collaboration with IREX identifies ethics and sets minimum standards, principles and actions needed to promote gender equality in media reporting as well as workplace policies in Sri Lanka’s media sector.

Hashtag Generation is a civil society youth movement advocating for civic and political participation of youth, especially young women and young people from minority groups.

IREX is a global development and education organization that focuses on a wide array of issues and works in more than 100 countries on issues such as education, leadership, information, and youth.

The Charter also covers an ethical code of conduct on reporting and terminology for LGBT+ people.

The charter identifies problematic working conditions such as unequal access to career opportunities, equal pay, promotion etc.

Few examples of problematic working conditions highlighted in the charter are:

– Sexual harassment and strong male bias in newsrooms.

– Certain media roles being perceived as men’s jobs.

– Female employees incurring extra costs due to transporting women home after 7 pm.

– Female journalists facing double the number of Cyber-bullies simply for being women

– Women journalists in Tamil media face extra cultural, geographic, and safety challenges.

And to uphold the issues it has identified and to portray gender in fair and equal manner it highlights key areas and practices.

“Portraying gender in a fair and ethical manner will only occur when it becomes a concern for all media
practitioners across Sri Lanka: media owners, journalists, photographers, news editors, camerawomen and cameramen, anchors, cartoonists, program producers and directors, TV/radio debate program producers, bloggers, podcasters, self-regulatory bodies, journalist schools, and unions, fact-checkers and HR managers in media institutions, and citizen digital journalists. Civil Society actors can contribute to this process through monitoring, advocacy and through dialog with media,” Hashtag Generation notes in the charter.

“Many media institutions still do not have gender equality training, gender policies, or anti-sexual harassment policies in place.

“The Charter calls for staff and contractors to receive gender training and specific training on
prevention of sex discrimination and sexual harassment and an understanding of acceptable and
unacceptable conduct.”

The objectives of the charter it says reflects key points and aspirations of many civil society organizations, activists and gender experts etc.

Some of the topics it explores and gives guidelines are:

Gender sensitivity in reporting include:

– Use non-sexist language and portray women and girls as they really are, rather than re- reframed gender stereotypes.
– Objectification and commodification of women sexually when they don’t fall in line with society’s prescriptions of how women ‘should behave’ or ‘should not behave’.
– Avoid confining media stories from only on topics that make women look as though they are perpetual victims’.
– Refrain from glamorizing or justifying violence and abuse against women and girls.
– Refrain from publishing the identity of survivors of sexual violence, respect their privacy, and take reasonable steps to avoid re-traumatization.

Other topics include ‘Inclusiveness and Equality’ by giving women opportunities to present their opinions and expertise in written and broadcast media coverage on all topics: politics, government policies, elections, employment, the economy, new legislation, peace and security, health, education, science and technology, trade, international relations, rural and agricultural issues, sports, climate change, arts, culture, infrastructure planning, transport, service provision of utilities – water, waste disposal, electricity, internet.

In addition, include issues of particular importance to women’s lives in your mainstream media coverage.

Include a gender balance of women and men in panel discussion programs on TV and radio.

“Use language in reporting that is gender-neutral and gender-inclusive. For example, use: ‘If a journalist works hard, he or she will succeed’ or ’Journalists who work hard will succeed’, but NOT ‘If a journalist works hard, he will succeed’.”

The Charter further on working environment, sexual harassment and elimination of sexual harassment on assignment.

Implementation of the charter

It suggests that all media houses should establish internal mechanisms to implement the objectives in the gender charter

– Each media institution should set its own target and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track the progress of their organization on gender equality.

– Action Plan – each media institution should draft a time-bound action plan on the implementation of the Gender Charter for Sri Lanka Media.

Suggested Action Plan Framework:

• Media outlets increase the number of items in which gender issues are given prominence.
• Media outlets increase the number of items (stories, panel discussions, etc.) in which protagonists are women.
• Media outlets eliminate stereotypes/victimization of women from news reporting.
• Media outlets increase the number of women sources in news reporting.
• Media outlets increase the number of articles written by female journalists
Allocate resources and budgets for implementation of the Charter.

“Provide compulsory gender-sensitivity training for all journalists and others working in media institutions, whether employed permanently, temporarily or on a contract basis. Training should cover the provisions of this Charter.”

The external mechanisms it suggests are that the industry should develop workable, enforceable complaints procedures for gender-biased and negative reporting in the media, including provisions for public complaints, and enforceable standards on gender equality in reporting and processes for regularly measuring progress on the implementation of the Gender Charter.

The MGC can be obtained on the following link
https://hashtaggeneration.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/MCG-Book.pdf

(Colombo/Mar05/2021)

Reported by Mahadiya Hamza

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Sri Lankans may need to wait for Monetary Board meeting minutes despite new Act

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankans may have to wait more time to read the meeting minutes of the Central Bank’s Monetary Board, a top official said, despite a new act that has made the central bank to be more transparent and accountable for its decisions.

Many central banks including the United States’ Federal Reserve, India’s Reserve Bank, and Bank of Mexico release the minutes of their monetary policy meeting to ensure transparency.

The new Central Bank Act passed by the Parliament in line with the guidance by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) includes measures for Sri Lanka’s central bank to be more transparent and accountable.

These measures include releasing the Monetary Policy Report every six months and the first such report was released on February 15.

However, the central bank has not taken a decision to release the minutes of the Monetary Board meetings on the monetary policy.

“Going forward, one day this could happen,” Chandranath Amarasekara, Assistant Governor at the Central Bank told reporters on Wednesday (21) at a media briefing.

“Right now, we have just started working on the new Central Bank Act. We are not there yet. There is no such decision on releasing minutes yet.”

The central bank in the past printed billions of rupees to keep the market interest rates artificially low and provide cheap funding for successive governments to propel a debt-driven economy.

It’s decision, however, led Sri Lanka into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with sovereign debt default.

It also propped up the rupee currency artificially in the past to maintain a stable exchange rate at the expense of billions of US dollars. The move also contributed for the economic crisis and later the central bank was forced to allow over 60 percent depreciation in the rupee in March 2022.

However, none of the top central bank officials was held responsible for wrong decisions to hold interest rates artificially low with money printing and propping up the rupee. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Amid mass migration, Sri Lanka to recruit volunteers as English teachers

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka is planning to appoint foreign and expatriate volunteers to teach English for Sri Lanka students, the Ministry of Higher Education said, amid thousand of teachers migrating to other countries after the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.

Over five thousand teachers have left the country with the Education Ministry permission using the government’s circular of temporarily leaving state jobs while tens of thousands of teachers have left the country without informing the relevant authorities, Education Ministry officials say.

That had led to an acute teacher shortage in the country.

Suren Raghavan, the State Minister for Higher Education said the shortage has aggravated because most of the graduates who have an English degree become writers and join the private sector due to higher salary.

“They do not join government schools. This is a problem all over the country which is why we need to have an online system,” Raghavan told EconomyNext.

Separately he said on Thursday at a press conference that he had spoken to Canadian and Australian High Commissions to get the assistance of where their English teachers who have experience in teaching English as a second language in South Asia.

He also said that there is a number of teachers in the Unite Kingdom have shown interest in teaching English and they have experience in teaching in other Asian countries such as Burma and India while the teaching would be done free of charge.

The new move also comes at a time when the country’s English literacy rate is on the decline, according to the Minister.

President Ranil Wickramasinghe announced the English-for-all initiative three months ago with plans to improve English literacy at school and university level. (Colombo/Feb 23/2024)

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Sri Lanka tea production up 1.4-pct in Jan 2024, exports up 6.8-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tea production was up 1.4 percent to 18.73 million kilograms in January 2024, with high growns falling and low and mid growns rising, industry data shows.

High grown tea in January 2024 was 3.56 million kilograms, down from 3.36 million, medium growns were 2.6, up from 2.5 million kilograms and low growns were 12.56 million, up from 12.32 million kilograms last year.

Exports, including re-exports were up 6.88 percent to 18.76 million kilograms, industry data published by Ceylon Tea Brokers show.

Export earnings were reported at 102 million US dollars, up from 99.5 million dollars last year. The average FOB price was 5.45 US dollars a kilo down from 5.67 dollars last year.

Tea in bulk was 8.5 million kilograms valued at 12.79 billion rupees, tea in packets was 7.8 million kilograms valued at 13.1 billion rupees and tea in bags was 1.8 million kilos, valued at 5.06 billion rupees.

The top buyer was Iraq with 2.5 million kilos, up from 2.1 million last year followed by the UAE with 1.99 kilos, up from 1.86 million last year.

Russia bought 1.98 million kilos, down from 2.0 last year, Turkey bought 1.72 million kilos, from 2.3 million last year, while Iran bought 1.32 million, up from 614 million last year. (Colombo/Feb23/2024)

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