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Who Makes The News? Women as Victims in Fiji Media

Who Makes The News?

SUVA (Fiji Media Watch/femLINKPACIFIC/Pacific Media Watch): Only 20 percent of people featuring in Fiji newspapers and news broadcasts are women and too often women are portrayed as a "victim stereotype", says a new research report compiled as part of a world survey.

The survey, part of the 2005 Global Media Monitoring Project "Who Makes the News?", shows that "marginalisation of women in the news media is still very much a reality".

The research project, endorsed by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), was conducted on 16 February 2005 and the findings presented at a media conference in Suva today.

The three daily newspapers - Fiji Times, Fiji Sun and Daily Post - 1pm English language radio news bulletin of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Fijian language news bulletin of Viti FM (Communications Fiji Ltd and the 6pm and 10pm newscasts on Fiji Television were monitored.

"Ninety four news items and 272 people (news actors, subjects and people making the news) were surveyed," said Fiji Media Watch vice-president Peter Emberson. "That was the number of stakeholders in the news on that day in Fiji."

Fiji Media Watch and femLINKPACIFIC carried out the Fiji research.

Emberson told news media representatives about the monitoring process and presented the 120-page report compiled from the findings of three volunteer teams of "media monitors", 10 individuals from three organisations.

"In Fiji, 49 percent of the population is women, but only 20 percent of the people featured in the news are women. And it is the same the world over," said Emberson.

"Twenty percent includes those who work in the news, those who present the news and the subjects of the news. It is predominantly a male scenario that you are looking at."

Emberson noted the 3 percent increase from the 2000 GMMP report.

"Our findings indicate that in television only 11 percent of women feature as news subjects while radio reflects 17 percent. However, newspapers show the highest representation of women being 31 percent," said Emberson, saying that the nature of newspapers allowed for greater allocation of stories for one day.

Men¹s voices also continued to dominate the "hard news", said Emberson, although he noted that in the Fiji analysis, men also featured predominantly in the celebrity category on the day.

"We are telling stories about men in the news; we see the predominant role that men play for expert commentary, as eye-witnesses, popular opinion; as news subjects it is predominantly male. It is pretty much a slice of what happens every day in the news," he added

As far as the portrayal of women as a victim or survivor, the Fiji findings highlight that women continue to be featured as victims.

"On monitoring day, women represented 20 percent of those portrayed as victims, whereas men represented 15 percent."

The report reiterates that the "victim stereotype" continues to be perpetuated when coverage is offered to women, even though, women are also offering solutions to situations, such as on issues relating to peace and human security:

"By closeting us into this victim mentality, makes it very hard to then draw women out of a situation and engage with them as decision makers, as these perpetuate all the other institutional barriers, we have to contend with," said Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, of femLINKPACIFIC.

In relation to reporters contrary to global trends, women appeared to be at the forefront of hard news journalism, according to the Fiji findings.

"In Fiji, more women are covering politics and government issues, no women were covering arts and celebrity news on the day. So it is pretty heartening, to know that women are taking on more serious reporting, on areas of concern, journalism that matters," said Emberson.

But the report noted that while there was a growing number of women in the newsrooms, there remained gender imbalances in the coverage.

"It is great to have women and men working together, getting allocated assignments on an equal basis, but we also have to see why men are being reported more," said Emberson

Bhagwan Rolls said: "You can have the numbers in the newsroom, but as you start analysing the portrayal, the issues, is there an equal representation of women and men? Just because you are a female reporter doesn¹t necessarily mean you will provide that balanced perspective. That¹s an ongoing challenge for women in newsrooms, and an issue that the SPC Pacific Women¹s Bureau is also addressing."

In Fiji, Emberson also noted, women dominated the news in the areas of crime and violence on 16 February 2005.

Fiji Media Watch also highlighted in their presentation that a Fiji Times report, "Female Force Mooted" by Vani Catanasiga of 16 February 2005, had been commended in the GMMP 2005 report as a case study which attempted to provide a balanced portrayal of the issue.

"The headline invites the attention of the reader without sensationalising the subject matter and the content stresses the positive recommendations of the report, rather than dwelling on any gratuitous details of sexual assault cases," says the GMMP report.

* For more information contact:
Peter Emberson of FIJI MEDIA WATCH c/- PCRC Phone 679 3304649
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, femLINKPACIFIC Phone 679 3307207 / 9244871



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