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Women journalists covering the Gaza war need far more support and protection

This year, on the eve of International Women’s Day, WAN-IFRA Women in News and its partners in the Arab Region met in Jordan to discuss the safety and inclusion of women journalists in war and conflict reporting and called for increased global support for colleagues in Palestine. The article is by the WAN-IFRA Women in News Team

The round table discussions took place in Amman, Jordan, against the backdrop of the war in Gaza, and underscored the urgent need to address the challenges faced by journalists – particularly women – as the pursuit of truth takes them to the frontlines of danger to bring critical stories to light. War reporting plays a crucial role in shaping public understanding and policy responses to conflict.

Leaders from more than 100 news organisations had in the past week (first week of March) signed an open letter, initiated by the Committee to Protect Journalists and supported by WAN-IFRA, in support of Palestinian journalists and those in Amman endorsed the call for global solidarity. They called on the global industry to also focus on the plight of women journalists in the region, their safety, protection and the freedom to report. “There needs to be sustained pressure to save the lives of my colleagues and give them the right and freedom to be journalists,” said Shuruq As’ad, a journalist and the Women in News country coordinator for Palestine. 

“My colleagues across the West Bank face many challenges, but the risks are higher in Gaza. The biggest challenge is staying alive. The second, because we aren’t protected, is that there is no safe place; the threat of death is present every day. Journalists in this region, and across the world, need to be able to report freely, in line with international laws.”

Different perspectives aid greater understanding
Melanie Walker, the executive director of Media Development and Women in News for WAN-IFRA, emphasised the importance of elevating women’s voices in war reporting. “Women journalists bring unique perspectives and insights to the coverage of conflicts. Their presence is essential for a more comprehensive understanding of the situation,” she said. “To truly reflect the diverse realities of conflict, we must actively work to amplify their voices. By fostering an environment of safety, support and inclusion, we can pave the way for more equitable and representative war reporting.”

This war has been termed the deadliest conflict for journalists ever documented. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, as of 7 March, at least 95 journalists have been killed since the October 2023 start of the Israel-Gaza war. These numbers underscore the inherent dangers faced by journalists, particularly in conflict zones where the line between reporting and personal safety is blurred. 

For women journalists, the risks are further compounded by gender-based threats, including harassment, assault and intimidation. The precarious nature of their work often forces them to navigate a complex landscape of physical, emotional and digital threats. Despite these challenges, women continue to courageously navigate the treacherous terrain of war reporting, determined to shed light on the realities of conflict and its impact on communities. 

Glaring disparities in representation 
Amid the chaos of conflict, however, the voices and perspectives of women journalists have been marginalised or overlooked. Studies have shown that women represent a small fraction of journalists reporting from conflict zones, highlighting a glaring disparity in representation. This lack of diversity not only perpetuates gender biases, but also diminishes the richness and complexity of the stories being told. Further, WAN-IFRA’s Women in News research on gender representation in the media found that women are, on average, quoted one in four times – despite making up about 50 per cent of the population. 

As an initiative committed to advancing gender equality in the media, Women in News recognises the urgency of addressing this disparity in war reporting, especially as the devastating war in Gaza continues to take a heavy toll on civilians. The empowerment of women journalists is fundamental to the advancement of press freedom and democracy.

(By special arrangement with WAN-IFRA.)