UNESCO, IWMF, Knight Centre Launch Course on Safety of Women Journalists

Elisa Lees Munoz
Executive Director, IWMF

On the Occasion of the commemoration of the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2022, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); the Knight Center for Journalism, and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) hosted a multilingual webinar to launch the French and Spanish versions of a self-directed course entitled “How to report safely” to provide women journalists, newsrooms and their allies with resources to ensure that women media workers can exercise their profession safely.

According to Prof. Rosental Alves, Moody College of Communication’s School of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin: “These courses build on the success of a mass open online course in English which reached over 1300 people in 121 countries, many countries where these issues where never raised before.”

Guilherme Canela, UNESCO Chief of Section for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, disclosed that additional language versions of the course are envisioned, starting with an Arabic course in 2022.

Alison Baskerville, journalism safety trainer, explained that safety trainings in the past often failed to factor identity into determining and managing risks. She highlighted, in her contribution, how women, LGBTI or non-binary journalists may be exposed to additional threats, saying this needs to be covered by safety trainings as well. She proposed that identity-based considerations should be incorporated, beginning with risk assessments when preparing for journalistic assignments.

Patricia Mayorga Ordoñez, an investigative journalist in Mexico said: “We need to strengthen our awareness of ourselves, and leave aside the competition that we are taught in the profession as this prevents connection.”

The event identified networks of solidarity – both amongst women journalists themselves and also with male colleagues, as well as within newsrooms and media organizations more broadly- as another key element to improving the safety of women journalists.

Tatiana Mossot, journalist and founder of the MaMa project, which provides support to women journalists in French-speaking African countries, pointed out the need to break the taboo of speaking about the physical, psychological, and digital threats that women journalists face and called on newsrooms to recognize and tackle these issues.

These messages were echoed by the French and Spanish course instructors, Elodie Vialle and Sandra Chaher, while Yemile Bucay, Risk and Security Manager at Buzzfeed underscored the responsibility of newsrooms to approach safety holistically and to provide resources and trainings across the newsrooms, targeting these at journalists of all genders.