HRC44: Combatting violence against women journalists
On July 7th 2020, the Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Ms. Dubravka Simonovic, focused on the threats against women journalists. The Right Livelihood Foundation delivered a statement expressing great concern over the continuing reprisals and harassment faced by women journalists in Azerbaijan, including 2017 Right Livelihood Laureate Khadija Ismayilova.
In her introductory remarks, Ms. Simonovic presented her latest report, focused on violence against women journalists. She stressed that while both men and women journalists are exposed to violence in the course of their work, women are disproportionately targeted by gender-based violence and sexual harassment, both within the workplace and online. Sexual violence, particularly the threat of rape, continues to be used as a tool to discourage them from working in the media. She emphasised that such violence is perpetrated by both states and non-state actors alike. Nevertheless, she stressed that states and the international community should create an enabling media environment where journalists can live free from violence, for which the report provides recommendations.
During the interactive dialogue that followed, 57 members and observers of the council took the floor, including five joint statements. Numerous states, including the European Union, the African Union, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, India, Australia, the United Kingdom and Albania expressed concern over the worsening trend in violence against women journalists, while Canada, France, Australia, Luxembourg and Switzerland were also specifically alarmed by the increasing online violence. Iran condemned violence against women journalists in the recent protests in the United States and urged the authorities to respect freedom of expression and women journalists. Qatar expressed deep concern over the fact that journalists in the Arab world are being prevented to practice their work and are being exposed to violence. Palestine outlined the situation of journalists working around the Gaza strip, who remain under threat, with summons for investigation, denial of access, and confiscation of material being frequent means of intimidation.
Referring to measures to combat violence against women journalists, UN Women stated that employers are key, but the provision of training programmes for police, judges and others can go a long way. Tunisia, Armenia and Greece stressed that governments are responsible for taking the right measures and bringing the perpetrators to justice. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, claimed that it is counterproductive to differentiate between men and women journalists, as the problem they face is not indifferent to those of other women in public affairs, it would be more effective for policies to encompass more groups.
The Right Livelihood Foundation delivered a statement drawing the Council’s attention to the case of 2017 Right Livelihood Laureate Khadija Ismayilova, who was subjected to the full spectrum of gendered attacks on women journalists, including a wrongful conviction, all for having exposed government corruption through her outstanding journalism. Ms Ismayilova remains under travel ban. We also deplored that Azerbaijani women journalists continue to regularly experience reprisals, such as blackmail, sexual assault and harassment. Additionally, based on Ms Ismayilova’s interview in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we expressed concern over the fact that Azerbaijan uses emergency measures against activists and journalists. The Foundation, therefore, called on the Members of the Council to urge Azerbaijan to align with its international obligations, stop misusing the law for politically motivated prosecutions, promptly expunge Ms. Ismayilova’s criminal record, lift her travel ban and release all imprisoned journalists. Read the full statement below.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Simonovic stressed that while numerous states and instruments recognise the important role played by women journalists as a key tool in democratic societies, there needs to be more reflection on how to make policies and international instruments fully applicable to women journalists. Referring to the role of the UN system, she called for an approach that would ensure the prevention of system-wide violence against women.
Oral Statement – Delivered at the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council:
ITEM 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur and its comprehensive analysis of the different forms of violence against women journalists.
We would like to draw your attention to the case of Azerbaijani Right Livelihood Laureate Khadija Ismayilova, who was subjected to the full spectrum of gendered attacks on women journalists, from smear campaigns and harassment, to fabricated evidence and imprisonment, for having exposed government corruption through her outstanding journalism. We condemn that, despite three different rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, Ms. Ismayilova still has a criminal record based on unfair convictions and is under travel ban.
Additionally, we deplore that other Azerbaijani women journalists, including Fatima Movlami and Sevinc Osmangizi, continue to regularly experience reprisals such as blackmail, sexual assault and harassment including doxing.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are increasingly concerned that Azerbaijan is using emergency measures against activists and journalists, including by tracking and blocking their phones, limiting their freedom of movement, and arresting them under the guise of violating quarantine.
We therefore call the Members of the Council to urge Azerbaijan to align with its international obligations and stop misusing the law for politically motivated persecutions as well as promptly expunge Ms. Ismayilova’s criminal record, lift her travel ban and release all imprisoned journalists.