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Thursday July 29th, 2021
Gender Issues

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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