Photo exhibition: Safety of women journalists

Violence is a form of censorship. Worldwide, journalists face harassment, imprisonment, violence, or even death - simply for doing their jobs. Studies have shown that women journalists are targeted online significantly more than their male colleagues. Who are these women? What are their stories? What inspires them to keep going? Now, Free Press Unlimited, together with the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Human Rights in the Picture, organises an exhibition that tells these women's stories.
Faces of women journalists by Giorgia Greco

Faces of women journalists. Design by Giorgia Greco.


1 in 5 women journalists have been attacked offline in connection with online abuse.

The exhibition ''Safety of women journalists: the stories behind the faces of women journalists'' aims to initiate a conversation with governments and other stakeholders in the media industry on enhancing the protection of women journalists. By highlighting the stories behind the faces of women journalists, but also by visualizing the important work that has been done in this field by organisations like UNESCO and Free Press Unlimited. Earlier this year, the exhibition was on display at Unesco's headquarters, in Paris. Given the many positive reactions and its huge social relevance, this exhibition is now coming to the Netherlands. The exhibition can be seen from 28th November to 14th December 2023 at Atrium The Hague.

Women journalists

While many journalists experience (online) violence, women journalists are disproportionately targeted by it. On top of that, the violence they experience is gender-based, meaning it’s sexist and misogynistic. This can vary from receiving hateful messages and rape threats, to actual physical attacks. Next to physical harm, this type of (online) violence against women journalists causes severe psychological harm like stress and feelings of isolation, and can also lead to  self-censorship. This means that there is less diversity in the news and that essential information cannot reach the wider public which directly impacts press freedom.

One in three women journalists even considers leaving the profession because of (online) violence. 

The stories

Below you find all the stories featured in the exhibition. 

Naw Betty Han

Naw Betty Han - Myanmar

"When I say I am a journalist, many people ask me why. Most people in Myanmar think the profession of journalism is more suitable for men than women. When someone is assigned to travel to armed ethnic areas and other dangerous battlefields to gather information, they are almost always men. Women are told that the risk is too great. I strongly believe that we should not turn away from the fact that women are treated this way. Women journalists should be treated the same as men journalists."
Lailuma Sadid

Lailuma Sadid - Afghanistan

"Violence against women happens all over the world. But violence against women journalists is more exceptional. These women are there to make their voices heard, to express what all battered women have suffered, and how they have to live with their pain day after day. The power of women journalists’ words stands against male-led state power. For me it has always been essential to inform the world and mainly the political decision makers about the condition of women in Afghanistan."
Hassnae Bouazza

Hassnae Bouazza - Morocco/The Netherlands

"It is important for people to know about the harassment faced by women journalists. Women are like the canary in the coal mine. Something is seriously wrong when women are not allowed to do their work safely. It is a sign of an unhealthy, illiberal and unsafe society. And when women are not safe, no one really is."
Nicole Maduro

Nicole Maduro - Curaçao

"The media as a whole are often seen as "the enemy", a nuisance or even redundant. Many people do not understand the importance of journalists, and specifically: the importance of women journalists. Because of the issues women journalists face on a daily basis, they carry a heavy burden. We should all be more appreciated for the work we do, but it benefits everyone to know the extra miles women journalists have to travel to get you the news you read or watch."
Annie Zaman

Annie Zaman - Pakistan

"Being a woman journalist of colour has a significant impact on my work, as the challenges and experiences I faced are different from my male and white colleagues. It affects my ability to cover certain topics. Ultimately, what keeps me motivated is the belief that journalism can make a difference, and that by doing my job with integrity and professionalism, I can help to create a more just and equitable society."
Arzu Geybullayeva

Arzu Geybullayeva - Azerbaijan

"The first thing I learned when I experienced online threats for the first time was that it was meant to sideline or silence me. It is the worst thing that could happen. Because if the other side succeeds at silencing you, then it means they won. I did not want them to win. Not because I wanted to win instead, but because I thought this was simply cruel and unjust. I will not let the ‘’bad guys’’ take away from me what I am passionate about."
María Luz Nóchez

María Luz Nóchez - El Salvador

"When facing gender-based harassment, women journalists have the right to set boundaries and prioritise self-care without feeling guilty, shallow or being singled out for lack of commitment. Despite the urgency and importance of our work and perspectives, our mental health must come first, particularly in hostile contexts. A rested mind is a new source of strength and opportunity."
Judie Kaberia

Judie Kaberia - Kenya

"To be a woman journalist is not easy. We must learn to say NO, to develop a thick skin, to work very hard – 1000 times harder than men. We must remain professional and persistent. In order to remain relevant and rise in our careers, we must promise ourselves not to give up, but focus on the goal and get ready to fight the hurdles we meet."
Astrig Agopian

Astrig Agopian - Armenia/France

"As a woman journalist working in a war zone, you are less likely to be taken serious, making it even harder to get information. Another identity factor that has played a role in some specific situations and contexts, has been my ethnic origin. With a recognisable last name and my “Middle Eastern” appearance, I have often been subjected to racist comments and inappropriate behaviour. But when I report, I realise that this work is so significant which motivated me to continue documenting and giving people a voice: in the end that is all that matters."
Hsu Mon Phyo

Hsu Mon Phyo - Myanmar

​​​​​​​"Writing and publishing news during a conflict is extremely difficult. The people on both sides are seething with anger and are attacking those who write and publish news about the conflict online. Nevertheless, I continued to write and publish news after my publication license was revoked. As a result, the military regime placed an arrest warrant in front of my house. The best way to deal with this, is to insist on people’s right to access information. We do not want to remain silent."
Sheyla Urdaneta

Sheyla Urdaneta - Venezuela

"In Venezuela, there seems to be a double risk: that of a journalist and that of a woman. These together make that women journalists have to earn their respect. Fortunately, more and more women journalists are heading the media as directors or team leaders. Others set up their own media companies. Every step we take we see as an achievement. After all, it is not easy to change patterns, but we have not given up and we will not give up."
Rana Ayyub

Rana Ayyub - India

"When I got my required assignments and did my journalism denouncing those in power, I experienced some of the worst forms of online harassment. A recent study by the ICFJ, which analysed more than eight million tweets addressed to me, found that I was attacked online every 19 seconds. However, silence is not an option."
Samira Sabou

Samira Sabou - Niger

"When I first got involved in social media journalism, I received many comments - which were mostly from men. They were telling me I had to go and get married. After I got married, they were telling me to go and take care of my husband or go cook. Over time, these comments turned into insults, intimidation and threats. But the desire to bring out the truth, to improve and correct certain malfunctions, is stronger, even if this means we expose ourselves to big risks."

Free Press Unlimited's work on this issue

We work to create a safe environment for all women in the media. Our Reporters Respond Fund supports women who have been under attack with for example emergency assistance, psychosocial support and legal advice. Besides this our Policy & Advocacy team works hard to get online violence higher on the political agenda, and advocates with policy makers to implement better regulations to address online violence.

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