The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), marked International Women’s Day by calling on media organisations in South, East and Central Europe to increase the participation of women in top-level management positions, guarantee salary equality, improve reporting on gender-related issues, avoid stereotyping and respect ethical standards when reporting on women, in particular as victims of violence.
Although some recent studies indicate that in Eastern European countries women are close to parity with men in terms of overall numbers in the newsrooms, enjoy moderate to excellent participation in all occupational levels, and even exceed the numbers of men at some news-reporting levels, top managerial positions are still reserved for men. Furthermore, differences between countries are significant: in some, women occupy numerous top managerial jobs, in others they occupy no such positions.
Although women are well represented in newsrooms, that representation has not been reflected in the coverage of gender-related issues, gender violence, respect for female victims of violence or forced prostitution (whose names and photos are often published), serious reflections on gender equality, elimination of gender-offensive language, or stereotyping of women, to name a few examples. In addition, young women journalists are often used in media to attract viewers due to their looks rather than skills.
“SEEMO has been very active in reflecting on both the participation as well as the portrayal of women in media,” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. “We have had several conferences dedicated to this topic and we plan to organise more. I call on media outlets to respect gender equality on all levels, but I also urge media owners and managers to engage in continuous training for journalists on gender-related topics. Dealing with gender issues and especially gender violence should not be a topic covered in a tabloid manner. It calls for serious research, reporting and debates. Media and civil society are essential in tackling this and other gender-sensitive problems. Both female and male journalists should be trained.”