Journalists not only play an important role in reporting violence against women (VAW) and other social justice issues, they also have great potential to influence public opinion and public policy on VAW and even how women are perceived and thus treated in society. Nonetheless, while VAW has been steadily gaining coverage in most countries around the world after the #MeToo movement brought significant changes in the way the media covers stories about sexual assault and harassment, it is still perceived as a socially or culturally taboo topic for public discussion in many parts of the world. Many types of VAW, such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and obstetric violence, still get limited coverage (if at all).
What makes VAW a uniquely challenging beat for journalists interested cover women’s human rights issues to cover is the opposition that they face on two major levels:
Firstly, they have to contend with sceptical editors, uncooperative authorities and victims or survivors who are reluctant or afraid to talk. This is compounded by the public backlash they may face (particularly in this age of social media) for bringing to light horrible crimes that they would rather keep in the dark and the lack of action from authorities.
Secondly, most if not all of the journalists who investigate and report about VAW will have faced and will continue to face threats of violence because of the work they do – exposing the many types of gender-based violence in the countries and regions they cover. Many of the crimes exposed by these journalists are systemic crimes that are part of a bigger and insidious problem – such as femicide, so-called honour killings or conflict-based sexual violence.
Nevertheless, the 16 journalists we showcase here (and thousands of others like them) will continue their work because they know how important it is. It is imperative that journalists like these have the freedom to continue their work, as press freedom is essential for democratic, free, participative and equal societies, and journalists and the media are crucial to ensure transparency and accountability of public and governmental authorities.
We hope that this list will inspire you to find more stories about VAW in your area, and to support local journalists who are working hard to prevent and stop VAW through their reporting and activism.
Introduction by Anushia Kandasivam with additional content by Regina Yau. Written by Anushia Kandasivam. Researched by Regina Yau, Vani Bahrdwaj and Bernardo Rosa Rodrigues
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Journalist Against VAW #1: Arzu Geybullayeva – Azerbaijan
Arzu Geybullayeva is an Azerbaijani journalist who reports for several international media outlets. Geybullayeva actively covers politics and government policy related to violence against women and girls in the region. She has written several scathing reports on the lack of action from authorities to stop and prevent VAW and failure to bring perpetrators to justice, including in-depth reports on Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and its consequences. Geybullayeva herself has been the subject of violent misogynistic threats and cyberbullying for her political reporting.
Journalist Against VAW #2: Catalina Ruiz Navarro – Colombia and Mexico
Feminist and journalist Catalina Ruiz Navarro is a co-founder of the Colombian feminist collective Viejas Verdes, creator and director of Crearas Camp, a feminism training workshop for young Latin American digital content creators, and a member of The Advisory Council for the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy. Now based in Mexico City, Navarro started her career in 2008 as a columnist at a Columbian newspaper writing about abortion rights and the local feminist movement. She has also contributed to international media outlets covering the plight of women’s rights defenders in Honduras and the systemic sexual abuse of indigenous women in Guatemala, among others. She has since become a strong voice for feminism in Latin America, covering women’s human rights issues and working with NGOs and her own groups to bring change to women in the region.
Journalist Against VAW #3: Dania Akkad – United States of America
Dania Akkad is a senior investigations editor at Middle East Eye, an independently-funded digital news organisation covering stories from the Middle East and North Africa. Akkad specialises in issues facing women, human rights, energy and technology. Her articles include reports on government repression of women’s freedom of expression in the Middle East, and she extensively covered the disappearance and subsequent reappearance of Qatari feminist activist Noof al-Maadeed in 2021. In 2022, Akkad won the Best Feature prize for her reporting on Qatari guardianship laws and the plight of women in the Emirate at the Write To End Violence Against Women Awards.
Journalist Against VAW #4: Dorcas Wangira – Kenya
The BBC’s Africa Health Correspondent Dorcas Wangira is an award-winning journalist whose main focus is on science and human interest stories. She has won numerous pan-African awards for her work, including the 2019 Michael Elliott Award for her report on the issues of female genital mutilation (FGM) and a group of Kenyan teenagers working to combat the practice through an app. Though she believes that FGM is a complex issue that does not have one solution, Wangira has said that awareness is essential. She views stories as a valuable and essential force in the world, which is why she works to create change and empower others in her community through her writing.
Journalist Against VAW #5: Fatou Warkha Sambe – Senegal
Senegalese feminist journalist Fatou Warkha Sambe founded the digital platform Warkha TV which produces a programme that discusses feminism with other activists from Senegal and the Senagalese diaspora. She is also a founding member of the Dafadoy collective, a leading organisation in the fight against rape in Senegal. Sambe uses her videos and her voice to fight against inequalities and combat gender-based violence in Senegal, including observations of how the country’s traditional media treats and systematically fails women, especially victims and survivors of VAW. Sambe has said that she has “always been a women’s rights advocate”. She encourages people to take action, saying: “You can still raise awareness by sharing information on the best behaviors to adopt to end gender-based violence. We are all exposed so we need to make it a personal battle. Take initiative.”
Journalist Against VAW #6: Frida Guerrera – Mexico
Frida Guerrera is a Mexican journalist who also hunts down men who kill women. In a country with the second highest rate of femicides in the Americas, Guerrera uses her skills and resources as a journalist to do the work that the authorities often do not. She trawls through national and regional news outlets for femicide cases and catalogues the details, then selects a few to write about on her blog, including a now-never-ending scroll of photos of the victims that she has gathered from interviews with their parents. Guerrera posts missing person notices on her Twitter and Facebook pages and enlists the help of her tens of thousands of followers to help find the missing women or the men who targeted them. Herself a survivor of intimate partner violence, Guerrera says that though she has been called “crazy” for her work, she will continue because it is an “absurd way of discrediting the truth. We’re crazy because we don’t shut up and it’s easier to call us unhinged.”
Journalist Against VAW #7: Jineth Bedoya Lima – Colombia
Columbian investigative journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima focuses her work on armed conflict and the peace process in Colombia, including conflict-related sexual violence against women. In 2020, Lima won the UNESCO/Guillermo Can World Press Freedom Prize for her work. Lima herself is a survivor of violence – in 2000 she was assaulted by militia in relation to an investigation she was conducting, and again in 2003 by other militia for another report she was working on. Lima returned to the newsroom after her attacks and has become a voice for survivors, bringing attention to victims of sexual violence through her movement No es Hora de Callar (This is not the time to be silent). In an interview with The Guardian, Lima observed that “the abuse of women’s bodies as a weapon of war [is] almost normal” in Colombia but said that though she now has to have an armed escort due to her work, she would “rather die of a bullet in Colombia than of sorrow in exile.”
Journalist Against VAW #8: Jovana Gligorijevic – Serbia
Jovana Gligorijevic is a member of Journalists Against Violence Against Women, a group of journalists and editors in Serbia that advocates for VAW to be presented, treated and examined as a social problem in media reports and clearly condemn any form of violence. As part of the group, Gligorijevic has said that it is important for editors to understand that VAW is a specific topic of its own and that journalists with special training and experience should be sent to report on it, and journalists should be encouraged to get training on how to report on it. Gligorijevic is one of these Serbian journalists experienced in reporting on VAW – she has covered it extensively, including local domestic violence prevention law and the activists working to prevent and stop violence against women in the country.
Journalist Against VAW #9: Kate Hodal – United Kingdom
British journalist Kate Hodal writes about women, slavery and politics for The Guardian, and has written numerous articles about human rights violations against women, including interviews with survivors of systemic abuse in Uganda, among others. Most recently, Hodal wrote about how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted women worldwide – from how it placed millions more girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) to how the pandemic may have set gender equality back by decades in some places.
Journalist Against VAW #10: Dr. Luisa Ortiz Perez – Mexico
Dr. Luisa Ortiz Perez is a Mexican journalist who has worked for NPR, WYNC, and the BBC. She actively takes part in community and international programmes promoting female leadership and knowledge, and has written for Chicas Pederosas (Powerful Girls), one such global community, about online gender-based violence. Perez is also the co-founder of Vita-Activa.org where she conceptualised and launched a helpline to aid women journalists and activists facing online violence and gender based harassment. As a Johns Hopkins University-certified Psychological First Aid Provider, she uses her expertise to lead Vita Activa’s Psychological First Aid task forces that support journalists and communicators in the aftermath of wars, natural and human made disasters, crisis, and the pandemic. Perez is a former JSK Journalism Fellow from Stanford University and holds a PhD in Ideology and Discourse Analysis from the University of Essex.
Journalist Against VAW #11: Mae Azango – Liberia
Mae Azango is the Liberian journalist whose reporting on female genital mutilation (FGM) in her country in 2012 ignited international controversy and helped suspend the practice in Liberia. After the article was published in Front Page Africa, Azango was forced to go into hiding following threats of violence. Currently still a reporter for the same newspaper and still reporting on FGM, the trafficking of women, and VAW in general, Azango is also the Liberia director of New Narratives, a non-profit newsroom that builds news organisation in low-income countries. In 2012, Azango was awarded the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists. On her choice to write about the taboo topic of FGM, she said “A lot of people don’t have a voice. If I don’t write about it, how will people know about it?”
Journalist Against VAW #12: Mary Gearin – Australia
Award-winning Australian journalist Mary Gearin is a presenter and senior reporter for ABC News known for her reporting on violence against women, among other topics. With 30 years’ experience under her belt, Gearin now focuses on social justice stories, such as family violence, child abuse and homelessness. She has reported on needed law reform in the state of Victoria, on family violence and activists working to prevent it, and on how cyber gender-based violence affects women in Australia. She has also talked about how to approach writing stories about VAW, including effective ways to pitch a story about gender equality and VAW.
Journalist Against VAW #13: Nicholas Kristof – United States of America
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof is a New York Times columnist, CNN contributor, and a human rights activist. Kristoff has written several books with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, including 2009’s Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which argues that the oppression of women worldwide is “the paramount moral challenge” of the present era and highlights the multitudes of ways women are oppressed and violated across the world. Kristoff, along with WuDunn, regularly speaks about the need for women’s empowerment as a driving factor in fixing global inequality, actively works with organisations and media outlets on stories about empowering women as a way to lift communities out of poverty, and seeks out stories about survivors of VAW who are helping their communities.
Journalist Against VAW #14: Rana Husseini – Jordan
Rana Husseini is a Jordanian journalist, feminist, activist, and author. She exposed so-called honour crimes in Jordan through her reporting with The Jordan Times, including how perpetrators of VAW and the killings received lenient sentences from the authorities, if they were charged at all. Despite facing public hostility, she continued to bring awareness to the issue through her 2009 book Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman’s Heroic Fight Against An Unbelievable Crime, which she has said was a way of documenting the stories of victims of honour killings and an advocacy tool for activists in other countries. In 2019, she received the Arab Woman of the Year Award for Social Impact. Husseini was instrumental in influencing Jordan’s 2007 fatwa stating that honour killings are against religious law, and continues her activism and reporting on VAW, social justice issues, and women’s sports today.
Journalist Against VAW #15: Tamara Srijemac – Croatia
Croatian journalist Tamara Srijemac covers women’s issues and gender-based violence for Radio-Televizija Vojvodine (RTV). Srijemac and her colleague Milica Kravic produce and host the radio show Woman in a Box, where they explore how the media and society depict and relate to women with the intention of breaking traditional and harmful stereotypes, including misogynistic reporting in the media. She says that though many in Croatia still believe the word “feminism” implies “some kind of hatred…towards men”, she is working to change that through her journalism through open discourse and bringing attention to the achievements of women.
Journalist Against VAW #16: Tobore Ovuorie – Nigeria
Tobore Ovuorie is the journalist whose undercover work infiltrating a prostitution ring exposed sex trafficking in Nigeria and inspired the Netflix film Òlòtúré (which made it to our 2021 selection of 16 films about violence against women). Her report was published in 2014 in Nigerian newspaper Premium Times and Dutch investigative magazine Zam Chronicles. Following her report, Nigerian authorities launched criminal investigations into the people behind the human trafficking ring. In 2019, Ovuorie published the book I Am Not to be Sold as part of the Media Initiative Against Human trafficking and Women’s Rights Abuse, to educate youth about human trafficking and prevent them from becoming victims. Ovurorie continues to report extensively on VAW in Nigeria and the region, including the shortcomings of authorities to bring perpetrators to justice, despite threats to her safety.
- Arzu Geybullayeva – Courtesy of Arzu Geybullayeva
- Catalina Ruiz Navarro – from Women in Foreign Policy. Source: Women in Foreign Policy
- Dania Akkad – from Middle East Eye. Source: Middle East Eye
- Dorcas Wangira – from Dorcas Wangira’s Facebook page. Source: Dorcas Wangira
- Fatou Warkha Sambe – from Awid. Source: Awid
- Frida Guerrera – from “Hunting the men who kill women: Mexico’s femicide detective” (The Guardian)
- Jineth Bedoya Lima – from Wikimedia (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung from Berlin, Deutschland, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
- Jovana Gligorijevic – from “Jovana Gligorijević, assistant editor-in-chief of Vreme weekly: Вoycott is a new way to fight politically” (Diplomacy & Commerce)
- Kate Hodal – from Land Portal. Source: Land Portal
- Dr. Luisa Ortiz Perez – Courtesy of Dr. Luisa Ortiz Perez
- Mae Azango – from “African journalist celebrated for tackling taboos – and risking her life” (The Globe and Mail)
- Mary Gearin – from “Five minutes with Mary Gearin” (ABC News)
- Nicholas Kristof – from Wikimedia (World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
- Rana Husseini – courtesy of Rana Husseini
- Tamara Srijemac – from “Tamara Srijemac, novinarka: Opasno je stavljati ljude u isti koš i lepiti im etiketu” (Mojnovisad.com)
- Tobore Ovuorie – from “Unstoppable: Tobore Ovuorie” (Deutsche Welle)