UNESCO Launches Journalists Handbook on Reporting on Violence against Women and Girls


UNESCOOn the occasion of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 22, 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) launched a handbook for journalists on how to report violence against women and girls.

Titled “Reporting on Violence against Women and Girls: a Handbook for Journalists” the launching was aimed at encouraging and stimulating reflection on media’s coverage of violence against women and girls; raise awareness among the audience on media’s potential impact in eliminating gender-based violence, and generate interest among media professionals and other stakeholders for reading and applying the handbook.

The event showcased UNESCO’s progressive stance in recognizing the urgency and epidemic nature of violence against women and girls (VAWG) by promoting good practices in reporting on VAWG as well as the Organisation’s support to media in preventing and mitigating VAWG.

The handbook is an informative and practical resource for media professionals on how to report on gender-based violence. In addition to its accessible format, it is structured to facilitate its use in fully busy news desks with tight deadlines insight. Divided into two main chapters, the handbook features specific information on 10 selected topics relative to VAWG, and offers general recommendations for ethical journalistic practice in reporting on gender-based violence.

The first chapter provides basic knowledge and references on 10 thematic areas:

  • Cyberbullying and online harassment of women journalists
  • Early marriages or child marriages
  • Female genital mutilation/cutting
  • Forced marriages
  • Gender-specific foeticide and infanticide
  • Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape
  • So-called ‘honour’ crimes
  • Trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants
  • Violence against women in conflicts
  • Violence by an intimate partner or ex-partner and domestic murders

It gives media professionals some recommendations and examples of good practice. The handbook also intends to help journalists better tackle the dilemmas they face when reporting on those gender-specific matters.

Each thematic sub-chapter includes the sections Definition, Facts and figures, Explanations and background, as well as Advice and good practices on how to cover the topic. It also contains a Glossary with main notions, and a list for useful Resources with regard to the subject matter. Adopting a global scope, the handbook demonstrates how each of these types of violence occurs as much in developing as in developed countries, and therefore concerns us all.

The second chapter provides general recommendations on how to address, frame and cover stories on violence against women and girls. It provides practical advice on key steps in the reporting and editing process, such as assuring the sense of dignity, safety and trust with interviewees, informed consent, responsive listening, choice of location, cultural sensitivity, choice of interpreter, interviewing children, choice of images and so forth.

A final section contains a list of International Declarations, Resolutions and Conventions.

Taking place as a side event to the 40th session of the General Conference of UNESCO, the launch was moderated by Ms. Virginie Herz, journalist and producer at France 24, and Gold Winner of the “Ricardo Ortega Memorial Prize for Broadcast Journalism at the 2018 UN Correspondents’ Association Award”. With more than 200 registered participants, in addition to delegates attending UNESCO’s General Conference, the event gathered journalists, NGOs, international organization representatives, other professionals and students.

During the open debate that followed, many participants affirmed the urgency of the publication, sharing their own experiences or anecdotes from their professional lives with regard to the issue. Others asked questions concerning the challenges and opportunities facing media when reporting on gender-based violence, notably in an increasingly digitalized and information intense society. Several participants inquired on how to best implement the publication. UNESCO confirmed it could also be used by organizations working in the field.

Numerous international organizations, NGOs and media professionals welcomed the publication with some expressing their hope for future translations into other languages. The Liaison Officer of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) to UNESCO, affirmed the organization’s support for the publication and announced that ISESCO will fund its translation into Arabic, as well as activities to apply the handbook in the Arab region.

It was launched at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris with support from the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO, and in collaboration with France Médias Monde.

To download the publication, please click on Reporting on Violence against Women and Girls.