The Media Gender Charter (MGC) is a local initiative to guide media institutions in the need for a fair and equal gender portrayal within the media, inclusivity of gender issues in media content, and conducive working environments within media outlets. The document has been produced as a result of consultations with more than 200 journalists, 21 media institutions, 20 gender experts, and gender-based civil society members, academia, and 14 media associations and unions.
The launch of the Charter was spearheaded by Hashtag Generation and included a panel discussion moderated by journalist Smriti Daniel on the topic of ‘Gender Inclusiveness in the Media: Today and Tomorrow.’ The panel looked at what practical barriers exist, how they can be overcome and what new dynamics can be employed to push past them. Panelists included Jamila Husain, Deputy Editor-News Daily Mirror, Roel Raymond, Chief Editor Roar Media and Nalaka Gunawardene, independent media consultant and journalist.
“Often female journalists are discouraged to continue with their reporting,” said Ms. Husain, speaking about the challenges that women face in the media. She cited the commonly held belief that reporting is not a safe job for women and went on to say that over her decade-long career there has been little to no change in the status of women in journalism. Female journalists, she added, are rarely considered for editorial positions. Ms. Raymond and Mr. Gunawardena both spoke about institutional responsibility, with Ms. Raymond recommending a bottom-up approach in media, where the management is not solely responsible for decision-making on gender issues. Mr. Gunawardene reiterated that as long as the clannish feudalism dominating the upper echelons of media remains unchanged, gender inclusion in Sri Lankan media will be an uphill battle.
The launch also included a facilitated discussion moderated by media and communications consultant Amalini De Sayrah on the way forward. The first step, she stressed, was the need to identify and acknowledge faults in the existing structures within media institutions. A common thread running through the discussion was the hope that the Charter would not be merely another document, but that it would be put into practice after the launch.
Throughout the history of the Sri Lankan media, there have been notable attempts made to address gender issues. However, due to the changing media landscape and various socio-political issues, there have been limitations to their full implementation. The launch of this new Charter reinvigorates the discussion, and the participants all expressed their commitment to work towards achieving genuine gender equality in the media. The Media Gender Charter is now available for download at https://hashtaggeneration.org/publications/