UN denounces gender gap in freedom of expression

Despite the Nobel Peace Prize to Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, gender equality in freedom of expression “remains a distant goal,” an independent United Nations researcher warned on Monday.

Irene Khan, Special Investigator for the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Opinion and Expression, said that “women’s voices are being stifled by the laws, State policies, as well as social customs, traditions, religious interpretations or the growing fundamentalism around the world that has caused the increase in misogyny and sexism ”.

Ressa, co-founder of the Rappler news site, known for its critical reporting on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign, has been convicted of defamation and faces other criminal charges. The Nobel committee noted that Ressa and Rappler have “Documented the use of social media to spread false news, harass political rivals and manipulate public discourse.”

Khan, a former director of Amnesty International and the first woman to hold her post in 27 years of history, said in a statement to the UN General Assembly human rights committee and in a report to journalists that governments must address more it would be the question of gender stereotypes.

“Women are doing wonderful things, but the pressure from the other side is very great,” she said.

Gender censorship “is widespread, both online and abroad,” with sexism and misogyny dominant factors that have intensified “due to the rise of populist, authoritarian and fundamentalist forces throughout the world,” he said.

According to Khan, in some countries the online social behavior of young women and “gender non-conforming people” is closely monitored, censored and criminalized by governments “under the pretext of protecting ‘public morals’ ”.

“These actions are paternalistic at best, misogynistic at worst,” manifested.

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Khan further noted that sexual and gender-based violence, hate speech and misinformation “are widely used online and offline to curb or cut off the expression of women.” Journalists, politicians, human rights activists and feminists are often targeted, he added, with the aim of removing them from platforms and public life.

“The effect is to undermine human rights and roll back media diversity and inclusive democracy,” he said.

Khan further requested more efforts to bridge the digital divide claiming that almost half of the world’s women do not have access to the internet.

“The same digital technology that leads to online violence against women is also the technology that allows them to organize, meet, discuss on digital platforms in a way that their own societies, especially traditional ones, do not allow them,” she said. “Women must be empowered, and the path to empowerment is to respect freedom of expression.”

Khan called for a safe digital space for women and urged countries to adopt strong laws to prohibit gender-based violence online, and to investigate and prosecute cases.

But efforts to eradicate gender-based violence, hate speech and misinformation on the internet “should not be used as a pretext by governments to restrict freedom of expression beyond what is permitted by international law.” In addition, he strongly opposed the prohibition or criminalization of disinformation, claiming that it is “counterproductive and misused to silence critics.”

There is currently an online crisis “due to the failure of social media platforms to manage their business model with a human rights approach,” said Khan, who asked these firms to review this concept and adopt greater transparency. about the algorithms they use.

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