Gender Charter to promote fair portrayal in media | Sunday Observer

Gender Charter to promote fair portrayal in media

The discussion in progress
The discussion in progress

In a fresh initiative to ensure fair gender portrayal in Sri Lankan media, experts from different disciplines - media, academia, research, civil society, policymakers, government representatives, activists, journalists and LGBTO+ representatives gathered to develop a Gender Charter recently.

They sat together at two sessions where many issues pertaining to gender portrayal in the media were discussed. All three mediums, Sinhala, Tamil and English and electronic and audio-visual as well as the traditional press were taken into consideration.

The first discussion highlighted the necessity for the media to play an important role in promoting gender equality in the representation of women, men and other gender groups in terms of fair gender portrayal and the use of neutral and non-gender specific language; and to promote women’s participation at all levels within the working environments.

The second discussion highlighted key concerns of fair gender portrayal, inclusivity, equal opportunities and safe working environments.

Patriarchal

The need was brought into light in 2015, by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in a report ‘The Freedom Frontier: Press Freedom in South Asia 2014-15,’ which noted that the “underlying patriarchal order in the society has been reflected in the representation of women in the South Eastern media and their participation in it.”

At the same time, IFJ’s country report ‘Media and Gender in Sri Lanka’ stressed “The need to achieve radical reforms in societal values and in the media industry where women are largely considered as marginal figures, despite their contribution.”

Many previous attempts for establishing a Gender Charter for the Media Industry were there. However, the rapid changes in the media environment with the arrival of the digital era; high number of ethical violations in news reporting; lack of gender visibility reporting; poor reporting on LGBTQ or non-inclusion; lack of representation of women at decision making levels in the media; and increasing gender biased violence had necessitated a more inclusive and comprehensive gender guideline for the media.

To address this urgent need and to promote a gender-inclusive, ethical media and communication environment, the organisers of the discussion, the Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF) had started facilitating a dialogue between the media, industry and civil society. How gender biased and discriminating reporting could be addressed in the print and electronic media platforms; promoting factual reporting; supportive independent and selfregulatory mechanisms to abide by and a code of conduct would be discussed in depth with the participation of all stakeholders.

The proposed Gender Charter is expected to set globally accepted standards and ethics in reporting gender issues in the media and provide guidelines to ensure equality in employment and women’s leadership in media organisations.

At the last discussions, the team talked about ways to get the media organisations more involved in developing the Charter and focused on implantation strategies, lobbying, advocacy and training. It also acknowledged the need of a proper implementation plan for the Charter to move beyond the draft stage and put it into practice.

Stakeholder group

The organiser, SDJF hopes to include a wider stakeholder group and conduct further consultations to ensure the document’s inclusive and participatory nature.

The current discussion and drafting of the Gender Charter is spearheaded by SDJF as part of its Media Empowerment for a Democratic Sri Lanka (MEND) Program. It is supported by the International Research Exchange Board (IREX) and USAID. - VF

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