WACC Programme Manager Dr. Sarah Macharia on 8 February conducted a workshop that explored the gender dimensions of communication rights, specifically whether women are represented fairly in the news media.
The workshop took place at a symposium titled "Communication Rights for All – Communication rights and media," held at the University of Erlangen, Germany, 7-8 February 2013.
The symposium was jointly organized by WACC and the Department of Christian Media Studies and Communication of Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg in honour of German theologian Professor Bernhard Klaus, founder of the Institute for Christliche Publizistik.
WACC General Secretary Dr Karin Achtelstetter, WACC Director Dr Stephen Brown, and WACC staff member Dr Philip Lee also gave presentations at the symposium.
Achtelstetter's presentation gave a broad overview of the concept of communication rights and WACC's global commitment to strengthening public voices and the participation of poor, marginalised, excluded and dispossessed people and communities in communication.
Macharia's workshop used a case study from WACC's Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), which every five years reports on gender representation in the media.
The 2010 GMMP German country report noted that "journalists in Germany often remark that the media features more men than women simply because there are more men than women in positions of power and decision-making. This is not the whole story.
"In German federal politics, women make up around one third of the cabinet ministers, the Chancellor Angela Merkel is a woman and there are even female prime ministers in the Lander (regional or provincial states). In 2006, Germany passed national legislation against gender discrimination in labour and civil law. Nevertheless, stories on politics in the media are still dominated by reference to men. The media features far fewer women in politics than in reality."
Feminist communication rights proponents, including those concerned about gender equality in and through communication processes, are conscious that the ideal of participatory, inclusive, equitable and democratic communication remains far from reach, Macharia noted in her abstract for the workshop.
The observation cited above following analysis of data from German print and broadcast news media in the context of the GMMP demonstrates gaps between reality on the one hand, and gender media portrayal on the other hand, Macharia wrote. The study found that in Germany, only one female is featured out of every five persons in the news. Globally, women are three times less likely than men to appear as persons heard, read about or seen in the news.
The "communication rights" concept evokes the idea of media as an enabler of democratic political participation in society, of unobstructed knowledge generation and use, and, of the enjoyment of civil and cultural rights, Macharia wrote.
"It follows then that groups hindered from enjoying their communication rights are bereft of the possibility of participating in democratic processes, of contributing to knowledge production and of enjoying their broader human rights. Taking different dimensions of presence in news media as salient indicators of the extent to which groups in society enjoy their communication rights, a picture of gross inequalities emerges," she noted.