Gender, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean

MEDIA-ARGENTINA: Journalists for Gender PAR-ity

Marcela Valente

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 11 2006 (IPS) - Argentina’s first national network of journalists with a gender vision intends to promote the enjoyment of full citizenship by women, and to point out the ways in which women’s rights are infringed on a daily basis.

The “Argentine Network of Journalists for non-sexist communication” has the Spanish acronym PAR, which means “peer” or “equal”. The newly formed group was founded by women media workers from 11 Argentine provinces, and its goal is to spark debate about gender issues in the existing media, and in new outlets that members plan to create.

The idea for PAR emerged from the Latin American Meeting of Journalists with a Gender Vision, held in Campeche, Mexico in September. Participants at that gathering came from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Journalists who attended the Latin American meeting, most of whom were women, discussed the need for a network to alert people about gender inequality inherent in the mass media, and to debate strategies for change. They agreed that creating national networks would be a key first step.

One such national group was established along these lines in Mexico in 1995. There are also national networks operating in Guatemala and Nicaragua, and as of this month, in Argentina. In an interview with IPS, Sandra Chaher, the coordinator of PAR, explained the network’s purpose.

A meeting of journalists with a gender vision aimed primarily at Argentine journalists was held in Buenos Aires in November, attended by some 70 journalists from 11 Argentine provinces and from Chile, Mexico and Uruguay.


They decided to form an Argentine virtual network (PAR) for information exchange and interaction, and to hold a yearly gathering immediately before each annual National Women’s Meeting, held annually in different cities to address women’s and pro-choice concerns.

Participants at this First National Meeting of Media Professionals, organised by Artemisa Comunicación, were convinced that coverage of gender perspective has been neglected by the media, and blamed this on editorial policies and the lack of interest of media decision-makers in articles which they rate as barely newsworthy.

A tour of inspection of newspaper and magazine stands, and a sample viewing of the most popular Argentine television programmes, showed that semi-naked women continue to be used as decorative objects or as strategies to increase the impact of advertising and enhance sales.

The portrayal of women, even in the more traditional media whose treatment of women is less offensive, does not contribute to a balanced image of women and men as equals.

The Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 drew up a Platform for Action which recognised that “print and electronic media in most countries do not provide a balanced picture of women’s diverse lives and contributions to society,” and affirmed that “the lack of gender sensitivity in the media is evidenced by the failure to eliminate the gender-based stereotyping that can be found in public and private local, national and international media organisations.”

“The continued projection of negative and degrading images of women in media communications – electronic, print, visual and audio – must be changed,” the Platform says, and it commits governments to “promote women’s full and equal participation in the media, including management, programming, education, training and research.”

It also recommends encouraging and recognising “women’s media networksàas a means for the dissemination of information and the exchange of views,” and it suggests encouraging “gender-sensitive training for media professionals.” But in spite of these commitments, the media are advancing at a snail’s pace, and no voices are being raised to draw attention to persistent stereotypes.

Chaher, co-editor of Artemisa Noticias, a website news magazine, explained that until seven years ago the media felt under no obligation to dedicate more space to women’s issues, but they have now recognised this need. “Women have become more visible in terms of column inches and air time, but gender issues are not always addressed, because few of the media giants know what the difference is,” she explained.

Issues important to women, such as domestic violence, now receive more coverage in the media, but “the treatment of these subjects is not correct,” she stated.

For example, when a woman is murdered by her husband or lover, it is often referred to automatically as a “crime of passion,” but this description overlooks the real essence of gender violence.

“Frequently, articles that have a gender perspective arise from the personal goodwill and educational background of the individual journalist. But then decisions about headlines, page allocation, space and layout are made at a higher editorial level, and may distort the author’s original angle,” said Chaher, who is an expert in social communication.

The journalists who gathered for the national meeting said that any news item can be analysed from a gender perspective, which requires looking at how men and women are affected differently by the same events, such as poverty, access to employment and loans, violence and education.

Participants agreed that the new PAR network should be used to provide sources of information and training; have an impact on the media and other public communication opportunities; monitor the news from a gender perspective; and establish new ways of communicating with and through the mass media.

 
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