When Rappler’s Maria Ressa spoke of sharing her Nobel Peace Prize 2021 with all journalists staying true to their journalistic values and mission, she definitely meant women members of media included.
One point made in her Nobel lecture, given before royalty and Nobel officials in Oslo, Norway, last Friday, December 10, 2021, was on how women journalists “are at the epicenter of risk” during this “pandemic of misogyny and hatred.”
Ressa targeted government atrocities and attacks on media, and American internet companies that foster hate, but she also highlighted in her speech the “gendered disinformation” that takes a toll on women journalists. This is one impact of disinformation campaigns that is not discussed often simply because the attacks are personal and fleeting on social media but they can affect mental health, safety, and one’s confidence.
She began her lecture saying, “I stand before you, a representative of every journalist around the world who is forced to sacrifice so much to hold the line, to stay true to our values and mission: to bring you the truth and hold power to account,” she said. (Her lecture available at https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2021/ressa/lecture/)
One highlight was when she said, “As only the 18th woman to receive this prize, I need to tell you how gendered disinformation is a new threat and is taking a significant toll on the mental health and physical safety of women, girls, trans, and LGBTQ+ people all over the world. Women journalists are at the epicenter of risk. This pandemic of misogyny and hatred needs to be tackled, now.”
The WAN-Ifra (World Association of News Publishers) has stated that sexual harassment in the media industry is a pervasive and global problem. A research study by the WAN-Ifra – Women in News (WIN) this year showed that one in three women media professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have been physically harassed, and close to 50 percent have been verbally harassed.
The report on https://wan-ifra.org/2021/11/we-join-our-voices-to-end-sexual-harassment/ also pointed to how sexual harassment in the workplace not only has consequences for the individuals involved but also has serious implications for media organizations. “Simply put, it’s bad for business. It can harm a media company’s corporate reputation,” the website report said. “It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organizations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact a company’s bottom line.” (Disclosure: I am a consultant for WAN-Ifra – WIN in Southeast Asia.)
Ressa’s mention of “gendered disinformation” on the Nobel platform is a needed boost to those fighting for gender balance and respect.