Code of Conduct to Improve the Image of Women in Media
Syrian women have occupied a prominent position since the 1950s. They won the right to vote and to stand for election to the parliament in 1953, and since 1973, the Syrian Parliament composed of both women and men parliamentarians. Also, Syrian women showed marked participation in all political, social and economic activities of life. They assumed decision making positions, including the office of Vice President. The successive constitutions have recognized the equality of all citizens.
However, all that has been formalistic. This is obvious through the discriminatory laws between men and women and through the status of women in the Syrian society. The reservations of the Syrian Government to CEDAW showed its real attitude toward women’s equality with men. The reservations have been to Article 2, Article 9-2, Article 15-4, and Article 16-1 (c), (d), (g), (f), Article 16-2.
In reality, Syrian women were deprived of equal opportunities to take part in the building of the various needs of state and society, which further marginalized women’s role and deepened the gender gap.
However, Syrian women have launched initiatives on various levels with a view to creating a new reality that respects their being and recognizes their abilities. Since the late 1940s, they started to form civil society organizations and movements concerned with public affairs with pure women’s efforts, without relying on a regime that cherishes dictatorship in both institutions and individuals. In spite of the obstruction of laws, and the society’s denial of the women’s role, their active role in the various Syrian provinces and cities has been obvious with the start of the peaceful revolution in 2011, which called for a state of citizenship and democracy; such role appeared clear in their efforts to create alternative civil society institutions.
However, the true image of women has not appeared in the media, and their stereotyped image remained the main one in the minds and in the ways of addressing the topics concerning the leading role of women in the status quo.
Therefore, we, in the Syrian Female Journalists Network, see that a code of conduct (CoC) in media should be developed, to which all media outlets should commit. This CoC aims at showing the true image of Syrian women, observing women’s success stories that contribute to the change of their stereotyped image, and observing all the changes and obstacles facing women, such as laws, customs, traditions and all forms of violence, especially the GBV, with a view to supporting women’s access to all social, political and economic roles, while sticking to credibility.
Based on this premise, the CoC aims at:
– Adopting the principles of human rights, respecting the dignity of women, combating all forms of discrimination against women, and raising awareness on the concepts of all forms of gender-based violence against women in all fields;
– Integrating the gender approach in media work, and avoiding prejudices and stereotypes in a media message;
– Monitoring violations in the media, laws and educational curricula;
– Working on the consecration of the culture of gender equality and respecting for human dignity in all media outlets, and contacting politicians, economists, and educators in order to involve them in media campaigns and awareness-raising courses;
– Supporting women to express themselves, and defending their issues, and address these issues objectively and professionally;
– Activating the role of media women, and changing their stereotyped roles from family and society pages to involving them in decision-making positions, as well as the economic and political programs and pages, equally like media men, through creating equal opportunities and disseminating this culture among both media men and women;
– Supporting change movements and involving women and supporting them to reach the decision-making positions, as well as, activating this participation as not to be formalistic.
– Participating in the civil campaigns aimed to change the laws that hinder women’s equal access to their rights and their rights as citizens and human beings.
– Activating communication and networking among the different media outlets and women’s associations, and all civil society bodies that deal with women’s issues in Syria and in the world;
– Lobbying, networking, supporting and acting in solidarity with the journalists when their rights to any form of expression are violated;
– Focusing on success stories and giving voice to the categories that the media ignores;
– Strengthening the independence of media as a fourth power;
– Commitment to the professional ethics, according to this CoC.
First, this CoC takes into account and conforms to:
– The Equality First: Towards a Democratic Constitution, Strategy Paper; Coalition of Syrian Women for Democracy;
– The Universal Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women;
– The International Codes of Ethics for Journalists;
– Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 1995, in its part concerning Woman and the Media, and the recommendations of promoting women’s entry into the media and to improving women’s image in the media;
– Convention on the Rights of the Child;
– Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006 and the Protocol thereto which obliges States Parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of (disabled) women;
– International Labor Convention No. 111 of 1958, which aims to promote equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupation, with a view to eliminating any discrimination, one of which is the sex-based discrimination;
– The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948;
– The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966;
– The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966;
– ILO Convention No. 100 of 1951 on equal remuneration;
Based on these international principles, references and conventions, the Syrian Female Journalists Network:
Noting the human rights current situation of regress and deterioration, especially in the media, and of ignoring and discrimination for both men and women, in terms of religious, national, or political affiliation, sexual orientation, local belonging in Syria, and what happened to Syrian women of violation of their rights, especially during the armed conflict, which changed them to refugees or displaced, to breadwinners and widows;
Considering that the discrimination against woman and the distortion of their image through media outlets, constitute a deep violation of their right to dignity and equality and of the principles of human rights, as well as of their right as citizens and human beings;
Noting that the local governmental and nongovernmental media discourse and the private one spreading all over the world still presents stereotyped images of women depicting them as inferiors;
Realizing the almost absolute absence of a gender approach in the Syrian media (public, private, and alternative), as well as, in all other discourses; and the fear of using terms of equality and gender because of the controversies raises about them and the clear hostility toward them by the male society; Stressing that the social roles of women are diverse, and each media stereotyping of these roles and limiting of them to specific models, will contradict the social reality of women;
Convinced that the discourses, images, implications and orientations propagated by many media materials do affect the making of public opinion, social behaviors, thoughts and attitudes that are abusive to women demeaning of their status within the society. While, these materials can play a more positive role to improve the image of women and activate their social, economic and political roles;
Stressing that every field in the media is invited to develop basic principles and mechanisms to monitor the appropriateness of media discourses and materials to the principles of respect for human dignity;
Stressing the role of all forms of private media in activating and improving the image of women, as it has freedom of expression and independence, and the SFJN’s desire to set a cornerstone in the profession rules and ethics to be an honor charter for the future media generations;
Stressing its commitment to the international conventions ratified by Syria and to the strategies and initiatives provided by active forces outside and inside Syria, such as the Coalition of Syrian Women for Democracy; as well as its commitment to all international conventions that support human rights, and women’s rights in particular, even if they are not ratified by the current Syrian government, and its commitment to respect and follow them;
Expressing its desire to follow up women’s and society issues and to monitor the changes through all communication methods, as well as, through research and investigative press enquiries;
Believing that it can launch campaigns and initiatives among all media actors, in order to integrate the gender approach in the media, to respect the image of women of all categories and to work to improve it and to present positive discourses concerning women in line with the principles of equality and respect for human rights and dignity; and
Emphasizing the need to respect and implement all laws, and to seek for family laws that protect women, in particular, and contain clauses for follow-up, implementation and supervision mechanisms which are assumed by the media as a fourth power;
Has agreed on the following:
Part I: Basic Concepts
Under this CoC, the term “media” shall mean written and audio-visual channels of communication and media, as well as, the media and electronic materials issued by these channels, and the mediums used for the production of these materials, such as newspapers, magazines, brochures, posters, audio tapes, film tapes, videos, CDs and Web sites.
The media content means the set of information of interest to the receiver, taking the form of articles, news, investigations, programs, observations, comments, or the like.
Any media that objectifies women, demeans their dignity or degrades their value, using discourses, images, symbols, expressions, concepts or terms that do not keep pace with the developments witnessed by women’s economic, social and political roles shall be considered offensive to women’s image and rights.
Gender: refers to the different roles, duties, obligations, relationships, responsibilities, images and status of women and men that have been socially and culturally identified through the historical evolution of a given society, all of which are subject to change.
Gender gap: refers to the gap between the sexes in a society. It can be projected through gender statistics. These statistics reflect the reality of women and men in a society by showing some indicators that point to the type of social relationship between them. Gender statistics are used in societies to achieve the following:
– to determine the problems associated to the status of man and woman in the society;
– to clarify the differences between the sexes and the gender gap;
– to increase public awareness and convince policy-makers of the necessity to change; and
– to provide an unbiased basis for polices and action programs, and to apply and evaluate the policies and procedures.
Gender-based violence (GBV) against women refers to any intentional or unintentional act perpetrated against a woman, as a woman, and causing her harm or insult, directly or indirectly and resulting in physical, mental or sexual suffering.
The term GBV is a violence expressed within a polar relationship (man-woman), and directed against woman, and linked to her status within the society. This violence is based on the social roles formed by the society according to the biological role of each sex and depending on a system of values, customs and traditions that lead to inequality on a basis of biological sex.
Electronic communication, communication network and website refer to:
– Electronic communication: refers to broadcasting, transmitting, receiving or exchanging information via electronic, electromagnetic, optical or digital means and the like.
– Communication network: refers to an electronic communication system allowing the exchange of information between a sender and a receiver, or a group of receivers, according to specific procedures. Examples include the Internet, mobile networks and the like.
– Website: refers to an IT or computer system that has a specific name or address and includes information or services that can be accessed via the network.
Under this CoC, the “image of women in the media,” refers to all mental and sensory representations used in all media discourses, whether they are news, publicity, artistic or commercial, that deal with or use women.
An electronic media outlet: is a media outlet that uses electronic communications technologies, which include, in particular, audio-visual means, and communication mediums on the network.
Means of audio-visual communication: electronic media means that allow the providing of radio, TV and the like services.
Radio service: is a service that provides a media content via an electronic media means. It includes the broadcasting of consistent audio programs that are received by the public or a category of it.
Television service: is a service that provides a media content via an electronic media means. It includes the broadcasting of consistent visual programs, whether accompanied by sound or not, and are received by the public or a category of it.
Means of communication on the electronic network: the electronic media means that allow the publishing media content on the network, where any individual can access following specific procedures.
Media Website: is a website used by a communication means on the network, especially the Internet, and it includes updatable media content.
Web host server: the server that provides, directly or via a medium, the IT environment and resources necessary to store information in order to create a website on the network; it is called “host” for short.
Media man/woman: everyone whose profession is to write, prepare, edit, analyze media content, or to gather the information needed for that in order to be published by a media outlet.
News agency: a specialized organization engaged in collecting, making and producing media content, on a regular basis, in order to send it to its subscribers, or to publish it to the media. News agencies are either general and cover all media fields, or specialized in specific ones.
Media Services Company: a company specialized in carrying out any kind of supporting or complementary activities to the media work.
Media outlet owner: Everyone who owns a media outlet, and has the license or certification required for its issuance. The owner may be a natural or a legal person.
Managing Director: the natural person who represents the media outlet before third parties, including the administrative and judicial authorities. He/she is appointed by the owner of the media outlet.
Editor-in-chief: the natural person whose main job is to oversee the editorial policy of the media outlet; he/she shall be responsible for the publishing of the media content through the outlet. He/she is appointed by the owner of the media outlet.
Writer: anyone who presents, writes or blogs a content, an article, a piece of information, a piece of news, an investigation, an observation or a comment in a media outlet, whether he/she is a media person or not.
Part II: the image of women in advertisements and commercials
– monitor, reject, combat and boycott the advertisements and commercials which use women’s bodies stereotypically as a means to promote their commodities;
– Refrain from exploiting women’s bodies in commercial advertising, through using hints, pictures, symbols, or phrases that are detrimental to the image of women or affecting their dignity;
– Focus on the role of women as economic, social and political actors;
– Refrain from limiting women’s roles to inferior or rigid social stereotypes (footnote 3);
– Reject to promote magazines or media outlets by using women’s pictures showing their bodies at the expense of their human personalities;
Part III: Women in television, radio, theater, cinema, print and electronic press
TV and radio channels, theater, cinema, print and electronic press, have to:
– Involve the excluded women through meetings and seminars in order to highlight their lives and real problems and to shed light on their lives through art works of TV, cinema and theater;
– Give a chance to the innovations that are interested in women, especially the scientific and intellectual ones;
– Highlight the diversity and importance of women’s roles in all fields of development;
– Use serious journalistic addressing of the various issues of women; and refrain from sticking to formal data and statistics. A media outlet should be a part of the way to reach the truth through specific questionnaires and research;
– Highlight all experiences of women, both positive and negative ones;
TV and radio channels, theater, cinema, print and electronic press should diversify their topics and programs that target women, and not reduce the world of women to fashion, health, society and the materials that excite instincts, and the stereotyped image of women .
– TV and radio channels, theater, cinema, print and electronic shall work to pay more attention to women’s issues. The SFJN seeks to be observant and complement to the media work that takes into consideration changing the stereotyped image of women and activating their roles. As well as, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of women’s political, economic, health, and education participation, because they are indicators for bridging the gender gap in society.
– TV and radio channels, theater, cinema, print and electronic press provide media materials on family issues that target both sexes of different age groups and social strata. Also, they focus on the reproductive health and the role of women and men together in the family as equal partners, not as complementary to each other. Here, the SFJN has a role in monitoring and supporting to introduce gender concepts, and train on them and raise awareness among media persons, artists, directors and authors.
Part IV: Ethics of Media Work
Media persons shall commit to international honor charters that serve both the equality between women and men, and the honor of journalism and media as a profession:
– Media outlet must not accept inappropriate details in topics of prostitution and crime;
– There should be no confusion between media work and advertising work;
– Avoiding the incitement to discrimination-based violence and the hate speech;
– Journalists must recognise their colleagues’ right to protect their information sources and to refrain from revealing those sources if they are secret;
– Commitment to accuracy and objectivity is the base for people’s confidence;
– Journalists have to show, at all times, proper respect to the dignity, privacy, rights and wellbeing of the people who they interview during the process of news collecting and presenting;
– A journalist must not accept a bribe in exchange for malicious materials that serve individuals for subjective reasons;
– A media outlet should give room for responses equal to the one given to the subject itself;
– Respect for privacy, which is the individual’s right to have his/her personal and family secrets, correspondences, reputation, sanctity of home and private property protected and not penetrated or exposed without his/her consent;
– The news that a journalist obtains from private sources must not be published or broadcasted until its news value is verified;
– Respecting the truth no matter what consequences it may bring about, and regardless of his/her stance of it, because the public has the right to know the truth;
– Publishing only the documented facts that he/she owns their origins; no essential parts of them must be hidden, and no change in the relevant texts and documents may be allowed;
– Refrain from resorting to incorrect methods to obtain news, images, or documents;
Journalists have the right to access to all sources of information, and to follow up all events that affect people’s public life. Confidential public or private information can be hidden from journalists only in exceptional cases and for clearly stated reasons;
PART V: Professional Practices and Rules
– Credibility: respecting professionalism and objectivity when publishing events and news stories;
– Avoiding defamation: individuals and their reputations must be respected, hence it is advisable to adhere to the following principles:
• The legitimacy of the goal: a media outlet believes in providing facts, taking into account the public’s right to know the truth; the priority here, is given to the facts themselves and not to persons involved in its framework;
• Absence of personal animosity: avoid publishing, deliberately, controversial materials about individuals, based on personal disagreements with them;
• Moderation in language: refrain from using sharp language that is harmful to others;
• Impartiality in verification: by listening to different viewpoints;
• Openness to all views;
• Respect for the principle of presumed innocence: under Article IX of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, an individual is innocent until proven guilty;
• Verifying the news and presenting it carefully and fairly.
Part VI: Monitoring mechanisms
– Carrying out awareness campaigns about the concepts of violence, discrimination, inequality, violations of laws and women’s rights in international laws and conventions.
– Training media-persons on the integration of gender concepts into the media, through courses for workers in the field of media;
– Expanding the culture of gender starting from school curriculum, civil and civic associations up to all aspects of life;
– Monitoring, through all media outlets, the violations and issues of women and discrimination in all aspects of life;
– Following up laws and violations of the conventions ratified concerning women, children and the disabled, and exposing the violations occurring in courts, medical centers, state-owned and private institutions through media materials;
– Following up research on gender and equality in and outside Syria related to Syrian women, and helping publish them in the media;
– Monitoring the gender gap to check if it is expanding or diminishing and observe the weaknesses and strengths through the media;
– Preparing annual reports on the image of women in the media, and trying to circulate and disseminate them;
– Allocating annual awards for the best article, report or TV reportage about Syrian women;
– Carrying out annual research to survey the public opinion about the image of women in society, and the effect of media in improving it through publicity, media, theatre and cinema discourses;
– Organizing open seminars on the websites of media outlets regarding the image of women and ways of improving it;
– Monitoring the media-persons who disrespect the CoC and asking them to apologize, and allocating a space for apology and notification.
Syrian Female Journalists Network