Al Jazeera Journalism Review

Global women outside
Family and relatives attend the funeral of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh on May 13, 2022 in Jerusalem. According to eye witnesses, Palestinian/American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot by a live bullet on the morning of Wednesday, May 11. She was covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. [Amir Levy/Getty Images]

The common struggles of female journalists around the world

Female journalists from different regions speak out


It has been five months since Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli forces while covering army raids in the West Bank's Jenin. 

Her death prompted global outrage as the veteran television correspondent for Al Jazeera was wearing a press vest when she was killed and was not in close proximity to any violent conflict. The incident triggered a new focus on the increasing number of attacks against women journalists.

Vania Pigeonutt, who specialises in covering organised crime in Mexico, has worked as a journalist for 12 years. Most of her work focuses on Guerrero, one of the most dangerous states in Mexico. 

“This year will be the deadliest in terms of press freedom in Mexico because 13 colleagues have been murdered so far. The situation is dire,” she says. “Due to the impunity enjoyed by politicians and bureaucrats, these murders are not investigated. This emboldens the next attacker to kill a journalist because they know they can get away with it," she adds.

'This year will be the deadliest in terms of press freedom in Mexico because 13 colleagues have been murdered so far. The situation is dire.' Journalist Vania Pigeonutt covers organised crime in Mexico.

Pakistani journalist Sana Batool says that she finds inspiration in women journalists across the world who have continued reporting despite threats. But her faith does not shield her from attacks over her reportage.

"Be it a man or a woman, every journalist faces difficulties crossing certain lines and writing on certain topics. But as a woman, one is threatened more easily," she says. “While reporting on the issues of minorities and marginalised groups, I have been abused multiple times by the Pakistani majority, especially men. Some of my stories involving sectarian violence put my life and safety under threat multiple times."

I have to be more creative than others with my coverage. I have to constantly prove myself

Vania Pigeonutt, Mexico


In 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression said that: "Attacks on women journalists are intended to intimidate, silence and drive them out of the public sphere and are a blatant violation of freedom of expression and the right of public participation." 

A UNESCO report published in the same year revealed that online trolling of women journalists was now morphing into real-life attacks. The report, entitled The Chilling: Global Trends in Online Violence Against Women Journalists, also found that the increasing attacks and threats were directly putting the health of these journalists in jeopardy.

global women 4
A woman puts up photos of slain journalists - both women and men - after the murder of journalist Fredid Roman during a vigil to protest the crime, outside Mexico's Attorney General's office in Mexico City, on August 24, 2022. Roman was the 15th media worker killed so far in 2022 in Mexico, where it is now considered the most dangerous country for reporters outside a war zone. [Eduardo Verdugo/AP]

While all journalists have to go above and beyond to uncover facts and weave a narrative, the challenges are even trickier for women in countries where society views men and women differently. The existing patriarchy serves as another major challenge, particularly when it comes to accessibility. 

"While reporting, I cannot enter the areas and activities reserved exclusively for men including the poppy fields where opium is extracted," Pigeonutt explains.

I have been abused multiple times by the Pakistani majority, especially men. Some of my stories involving sectarian violence put my life and safety under threat

Sana Batool, Pakistan


“The culture does not accept women in these spaces. Along with this, I have to be more creative than others with my coverage. I have to constantly prove myself and show what I am capable of when it comes to understanding the situation on the ground. My male colleagues do not have that additional struggle to prove themselves," she adds.

Recently, UNESCO also expressed concerns over world press freedom and highlighted that life-threatening risks exist for journalists everywhere. However, the number of killings varies strongly between regions. Between the start of 2016 and the end of 2020, 400 journalists across the world were killed while doing their jobs. Among these, around 123 were killed in Asia and the Pacific region along with Latin America and the Caribbean region, making them the worst-performing regions.

global women 3
Flowers and a candle lie in front of a portrait of slain female investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a vigil outside the law courts in Valletta, Malta, on October 16, 2018. Galizia had been killed in a car bombing one year earlier. Her case highlighted the dangers that many female journalists face in many parts of the world [Jonathan Borg/AP]

When Filipino journalist Ana P Santos transitioned from a full-time banker to an independent journalist covering migrant issues, gender, and sexuality, she did not expect it to be an easy road ahead. But what she experienced was harder than anything she had imagined.

"I have had doctors call me stupid and threaten to overdose me with anesthesia if I ever landed up in their hospital. This is a direct consequence of former PM Rodrigo Duterte saying journalists deserved to die while referring to the case of a reporter who was murdered in 2003. This meant that we were no longer reporters of political excesses and abuse but instead enemies of the public, especially if we wrote critical pieces against the government,” she says. 

A UNESCO report published in 2021 revealed that online trolling of women journalists is now morphing into real-life attacks


The increasing disinformation of the post-truth era has led to increased hostility and a growing trust deficit among the people, Santos says. “Philippines was ground zero as it was one of the first countries to witness Facebook being used as a political tool to influence elections. This was because one could access Facebook without data. People in the country use Facebook to consume news. Unverified posts from friends and family got branded as 'the truth' or 'fact' leading to a crisis of trust. Such was the situation that the consumer of the news would rather believe influencers over journalists," she explains.

'I have had doctors call me stupid and threaten to overdose me with anesthesia if I ever landed up in their hospital.' Ana P Santos covers migration and gender issues in the Philippines [Courtesy of Ana P Santos]

While calling for regulation of big tech companies, Santos says journalists across the world need to come together to call for action as most countries today are witnessing the same problem. “Our survival as an industry depends on regulating the internet and making social media sites such as Google and Facebook accountable," Santos says. 

Calling for extensive media training scholarships, mental health support, and increased awareness and sensitisation programmes for the masses, Batool also says that the industry needs to evolve and become more accessible for women. 

“We need to invest in training and nurture of women journalists which will inspire more women to join the profession. Issues of the gender wage gap in the media also need to be raised more vociferously to ensure that there are equal opportunities for all," she says.

global women 2
A Demonstrator holds a placard during the Free Palestine, End Apartheid protest outside BBC Broadcasting House on May 14, 2022 in London, England. Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed by Israeli forces while reporting on raids in the West Bank [Hollie Adams/Getty Images]

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which evaluates the press freedom situation in 180 countries and territories annually, shows that journalism is totally blocked or seriously impeded in 73 countries and constrained in 59 others, which together represent 73 percent of the countries evaluated. These countries are classified as having “very bad”, “bad” or “problematic” environments for press freedom.

Women face almost the same threats because of their gender from authoritarian governments and extremists

Jane Lee, China

When Chinese journalist Jane Lee started to work as a reporter she never imagined that her work could lead her to jail. For three years she documented protests which included links, texts, pictures and videos and created an archive. It took her three years to work on and complete the project with her partner but when the database was widely used by other journalists and researchers to study China and its social issues, problems for Lee started to crop up more frequently.

“There is no independent journalism in China and many journalists have been jailed or have gone to exile in the past decade,” Lee, who has been arrested and detained for 11 months - later receiving a three-year suspended sentence - says. “With the ever tightening internet control and censorship, journalists who try to report from the front face grave dangers. They often disappear if they dare follow up a hot social scandal.”

Jane Lee, a Chinese journalist, never imagined her work would land her in jail. [Courtesy of Jane Lee]

Lee says she believes it hardly makes a difference in China who you are and if you speak or be critical you will land in jail. “This year a female citizen who tried to rescue a chained woman from captivity was arrested and charged by the Chinese government.”

Lee, who has received the TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize from Reporters Without Borders, says it is high time for journalists to come forward and create solidarity groups especially for the countries where there’s very limited press freedom. 

“Journalists across the globe are facing almost similar threats and women face almost the same threats because of their gender from authoritarian governments and extremists. We need to foster a strong community to tackle or fight these brute powers.” 


More Articles

Fighting Misinformation and Disinformation to Foster Social Governance in Africa

Experts in Africa are using various digital media tools to raise awareness and combat the increasing usage of misinformation and disinformation to manipulate social governance.

Derick M
Derick Matsengarwodzi Published on: 22 May, 2024
"I Am Still Alive!": The Resilient Voices of Gaza's Journalists

The Israeli occupation has escalated from targeting journalists to intimidating and killing their families. Hisham Zaqqout, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza talks about his experience covering the war and the delicate balance between family obligations and professional duty.

Hisham Zakkout Published on: 15 May, 2024
Under Fire: The Perilous Reality for Journalists in Gaza's War Zone

Journalists lack safety equipment and legal protection, highlighting the challenges faced by journalists in Gaza. While Israel denies responsibility for targeting journalists, the lack of international intervention leaves journalists in Gaza exposed to daily danger.

Linda Shalash
Linda Shalash Published on: 9 May, 2024
Elections and Misinformation – India Case Study

Realities are hidden behind memes and political satire in the battle for truth in the digital age. Explore how misinformation is influencing political decisions and impacting first-time voters, especially in India's 2024 elections, and how journalists fact-check and address fake news, revealing the true impact of misinformation and AI-generated content.

Safina Nabi Published on: 30 Apr, 2024
Amid Increasing Pressure, Journalists in India Practice More Self-Censorship

In a country where nearly 970 million people are participating in a crucial general election, the state of journalism in India is under scrutiny. Journalists face harassment, self-censorship, and attacks, especially under the current Modi-led government. Mainstream media also practices self-censorship to avoid repercussions. The future of journalism in India appears uncertain, but hope lies in the resilience of independent media outlets.

Hanan Zaffa
Hanan Zaffar, Jyoti Thakur Published on: 25 Apr, 2024
The Privilege and Burden of Conflict Reporting in Nigeria: Navigating the Emotional Toll

The internal struggle and moral dilemmas faced by a conflict reporter, as they grapple with the overwhelming nature of the tragedies they witness and the sense of helplessness in the face of such immense suffering. It ultimately underscores the vital role of conflict journalism in preserving historical memory and giving a voice to the voiceless.

Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu
Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu Published on: 17 Apr, 2024
Journalism in chains in Cameroon

Investigative journalists in Cameroon sometimes use treacherous means to navigate the numerous challenges that hamper the practice of their profession: the absence of the Freedom of Information Act, the criminalisation of press offenses, and the scare of the overly-broad anti-terrorism law.

Nalova Akua
Nalova Akua Published on: 12 Apr, 2024
The Perils of Journalism and the Rise of Citizen Media in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia's media landscape is grim, with low rankings for internet and press freedom across the region. While citizen journalism has risen to fill the gaps, journalists - both professional and citizen - face significant risks due to government crackdowns and the collusion between tech companies and authorities to enable censorship and surveillance.

AJR Contributor Published on: 6 Apr, 2024
Silenced Voices: The Battle for Free Expression Amid India’s Farmer’s Protest

The Indian government's use of legal mechanisms to suppress dissenting voices and news reports raises questions about transparency and freedom of expression. The challenges faced by independent media in India indicate a broader narrative of controlling the narrative and stifling dissenting voices.

Suvrat Arora
Suvrat Arora Published on: 17 Mar, 2024
Targeting Truth: Assault on Female Journalists in Gaza

For female journalists in Palestine, celebrating international women's rights this year must take a backseat, as they continue facing the harsh realities of conflict. March 8th will carry little celebration for them, as they grapple with the severe risks of violence, mass displacement, and the vulnerability of abandonment amidst an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Their focus remains on bearing witness to human suffering and sharing stories of resilience from the frontlines, despite the personal dangers involved in their work.

Fatima Bashir
Fatima Bashir Published on: 14 Mar, 2024
A Woman's Journey Reporting on Pakistan's Thrilling Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally

A Woman's Voice in the Desert: Navigating the Spotlight

Anam Hussain
Anam Hussain Published on: 8 Mar, 2024
Breaking Barriers: The Rise of Citizen Journalists in India's Fight for Media Inclusion

Grassroots journalists from marginalized communities in India, including Dalits and Muslims, are challenging mainstream media narratives and bringing attention to underreported issues through digital outlets like The Mooknayak.

Hanan Zaffa
Hanan Zaffar, Jyoti Thakur Published on: 3 Mar, 2024
Why Journalists are Speaking out Against Western Media Bias in Reporting on Israel-Palestine

Over 1500 journalists from various US news organizations have signed an open letter criticizing the Western media's coverage of Israel's actions against Palestinians. They accuse newsrooms of dehumanizing rhetoric, bias, and the use of inflammatory language that reinforces stereotypes, lack of context, misinformation, biased language, and the focus on certain perspectives while diminishing others. They call for more accurate and critical coverage, the use of well-defined terms like "apartheid" and "ethnic cleansing," and the inclusion of Palestinian voices in reporting.

Belle de Jong journalist
Belle de Jong Published on: 26 Feb, 2024
Silenced Voices and Digital Resilience: The Case of Quds Network

Unrecognized journalists in conflict zones face serious risks to their safety and lack of support. The Quds Network, a Palestinian media outlet, has been targeted and censored, but they continue to report on the ground in Gaza. Recognition and support for independent journalists are crucial.

Yousef Abu Watfe يوسف أبو وطفة
Yousef Abu Watfeh Published on: 21 Feb, 2024
Artificial Intelligence's Potentials and Challenges in the African Media Landscape

How has the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence impacted newsroom operations, job security and regulation in the African media landscape? And how are journalists in Africa adapting to these changes?

Derick M
Derick Matsengarwodzi Published on: 18 Feb, 2024
Media Blackout on Imran Khan and PTI: Analysing Pakistan's Election Press Restrictions

Implications and response to media censorship and the deliberate absence of coverage for the popular former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in the media during the 2024 elections in Pakistan.

Anam Hussain
Anam Hussain Published on: 14 Feb, 2024
Digital Battlegrounds: The New Broadcasting Bill and Independent Journalism in India

New legislation in India threatens the freedom of independent journalism. The draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 grants the government extensive power to regulate and censor content, potentially suppressing news critical of government policies.

Safina Nabi Published on: 11 Feb, 2024
Pegasus Spyware: A Grave Threat to Journalists in Southeast Asia

The widespread deployment of spyware such as Pegasus in Southeast Asia, used by governments to target opposition leaders, activists, and journalists, presents significant challenges in countering digital surveillance. This is due to its clandestine operations and the political intricacies involved. The situation underscores the urgent need for international cooperation and heightened public awareness to address these human rights infringements.

AJR Contributor Published on: 5 Feb, 2024
Media Monopoly in Brazil: How Dominant Media Houses Control the Narrative and Stifle Criticism of Israel

An in-depth analysis exploring the concentration of media ownership in Brazil by large companies, and how this shapes public and political narratives, particularly by suppressing criticism of Israel.

Al Jazeera Logo
Rita Freire & Ahmad Al Zobi Published on: 1 Feb, 2024
Cameroonian Media Martyrs: The Intersection of Journalism and Activism

Experts and journalists in Cameroon disagree on the relationship between journalism and activism: some say journalism is activism; others think they are worlds apart, while another category says a “very thin” line separate both

Nalova Akua
Nalova Akua Published on: 28 Jan, 2024
Silent Suffering: The Impact of Sexual Harassment on African Newsrooms

Sexual harassment within newsrooms and the broader journalistic ecosystem is affecting the quality and integrity of journalistic work, ultimately impacting the organisation’s integrity and revenue.

Derick M
Derick Matsengarwodzi Published on: 23 Jan, 2024
Echos of Israeli Discourse in Latin American Media on Gaza

Heavily influenced by US and Israeli diplomatic efforts, Latin American media predominantly aligns with and amplifies the Israeli perspective. This divergence between political actions and media representation highlights the complex dynamics shaping Latin American coverage of the Gaza conflict.

Rita Freire Published on: 23 Nov, 2023
Why have opposition parties in India issued a boycott of 14 TV presenters?

Media workers in India argue that boycotts of individual journalists are not the answer to pro-Government reporting bias

Saurabh Sharma
Saurabh Sharma Published on: 23 Oct, 2023
The bombs raining down on Gaza from Israel are beyond scary, beyond crazy

REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: As Israel bombarded Gaza for the third night, I found myself closer to a missile hit than I could have imagined

Maram Humaid Published on: 11 Oct, 2023