Women journalists and free expression

At the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Norway, Norwegian PEN, in co-operation with Department of Journalism and Media studies, Oslo and Akershus University College, hosted the conference “Women’s Suffrage – Women’s voices”. Invitees were journalists and journalism educators/researchers from the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey. The women contributed information and stories on how women are represented in the media in the variety of countries, and on the challenges facing women in countries in transition. Particular emphasis was paid to the tense situation in Turkey, as it unfolded hour by hour as we met. Zeynep Oral and Nadire Mater, both exceptional journalists from Turkey, provided in-depth insight into the current situation for women’s rights, while asking people to address the situation of the many men and women currently jailed for their journalism and writing in general.

Many other speakers addressed the invisibility of women in mainstream media as well as difficulties in being allowed to cover the same beats as their male colleagues. Norwegian journalists and researchers took part in the dialogues, which addressed media content, access to leadership positions in the media, social and judicial constraints in journalism, and a multitude of other issues. Abeer Saady, Amal Wahab, Hamida el Bour and Atidel Mejbri provided powerful examples from the situation in Egypt and Tunisia, where fundamentalists in power try to curb women’s rights. Towards the end, the conference discussed the gender impact of social media, including both positive impact and harassment of women in particular, and experienced well-known Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni drew on her experiences from the Tunisian revolution. The group of women also paid a visit to the parliament, and there briefly met with several politicians, including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.