Nearly two-thirds of female journalists say they've been threatened, intimidated or abused while on the job, according to a recent poll conducted by the International Women’s Media Foundation.
More than one-fifth of the women polled said they've experienced physical violence because of their work.
Still, women say they keep on fighting and pushing back against any attempt to stifle their journalism.
“At our newspaper, censorship has no place, self-censorship either,” Solange Lusiku Nsimire, the editor-in-chief of Le Souverain, a publication in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told a roomful of supporters Wednesday afternoon in New York.
Lusiku Nsimire was in town to accept the IWMF’s 2014 Courage in Journalism Award, along with two other female journalists, Brankica Stanković of Serbia, and Arwa Damon, a U.S. foreign correspondent for CNN. The three women were recognized for their consistent efforts to publish difficult stories in the harshest environments.
“You look around the world today and there is more hatred, more radicalism and less understanding…we all refuse to give up and be silenced by the threats that we received,” Damon said.
“I choose to confront danger. I know when I come home from an assignment I’m relatively safe. They have to deal with it every single day,” Damon said in a nod to the her co-awardees.
For foreign journalists like Stanković, there's no getting away from the danger. The Serbian journalist has four bodyguards with her at all times, and says she wasn't even allowed to carry her newborn daughter out of the hospital because of the security risk.
(Image credit: CNN/IWMF)
Arwa Damon, USA — International Correspondent, CNN
Damon calls herself an “accidental war correspondent.” She says attacks against journalists by governments, militias and terrorist groups is the most pressing threat to the freedom of the press.
“Until a certain era, journalists were protected by the fact that they were journalists —to a certain degree — at least in some countries," she said. "And that’s been lost.”
For Damon, who was attracted to journalism after 9/11, journalism remains essential.
“You have to have accountability," she said. "And the minute you muzzle journalists, governments, militias, societies, populations, can act with impunity.”
She says her passion for journalism remains strong after 13 years later, despite having been shot at, threatened, and criticized by governments — all for just doing her job.
“Humanity has already lost its moral compass," she said. "If we were to eradicate journalism, it would be even worse.”
(Image credit: Sylvain Muyali/ IWMF)
Solange Lusiku Nsimire, Democratic Republic of the Congo — Editor-in-Chief, Le Souverain
In Lusiku Nsimire’s town of Bukavu, three journalists were killed in a four-year period.
“For me, the biggest threat right now is killings and murders,” she said through a translator. “It’s as if Africa called for the blood of journalists. Why is Africa the place where journalists seem to go to die?”
Lusiku Nsimire had to go into hiding after receiving threats related to her work. In 2008, her family's home was attacked three times, and her husband and children were tied up and interrogated by armed men.
But Lusiku Nsimire steadfastly defends the need for a free press and her passion for journalism.
“With a free press, you allow citizens to ask their leaders for accountability," she said. "And if you silence the free press, if you silence journalists, you end up silencing democracy.”
Lusiku Nsimire urges embattled journalists to keep fighting.
“People that threaten journalists do that because they [want] to discourage them. So if a journalist gets discouraged, they will have reached their end. Keep going, keep going, keep the fight up.”
(Image credit: Dejana Batalović/IWMF)
Brankica Stanković, Serbia — TV reporter, B92
“I think that freedom of the media or the press does not exist as far as I know anywhere in the world,” Stanković said, speaking through a translator. “Because in every country, there is someone who tries to prevent publishing the truth.”
Stanković has been living with bodyguards since December 2009 because of death threats, which increased after she produced a report about hooliganism and its ties to those in political power.
After the report aired, hooligans mimicked attacking Stanković and issued a bevy of threats against her.
Stanković thinks no government really wants a free press "in the true sense of the word,” but it's sacrosanct to her.
“Freedom of the media is the foundation of every democratic society," she said.
Abby Rogers is a feminist who is completely content being a crazy cat lady. She reads everything, but only in real book form — no e-readers thank you very much.