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5 Dec 2012
By Helena Williams
The International News Safety Institute’s ground-breaking publication, ‘No Woman’s Land - On the Frontlines with Female Reporters’, was presented to the mayor of The Hague this week, marking the launch of the book in the Netherlands.
INSI’s Director Hannah Storm gave the copy to Jozais van Aartsen at the third international launch of the book, which details the experiences of 40 women journalists in conflict zones.
“The work journalists do is enormously important. Quite often the feats of our correspondents are important sources of information for governments and aid organisations,” said van Aartsen, who said he was particularly pleased to see the book launched in the city known across the world as being the international centre of peace and justice.
“If we want to protect human rights abuses, we can’t do it without protecting journalists in conflict zones,” he told the audience at the annual Meet The Press event which was organised by the Municipality of the Hague with INSI and the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ).
He spoke before a lively panel discussion with the BBC’s Katya Alder and freelance reporter Minka Nijhuis (Trouw, Vrij Nederland, Radio 1), discussing the perks and pitfalls of being a female reporter in the field. The debate was moderated by Peter ter Horst, the veteran Dutch foreign correspondent and media consultant.
Adler, a former BBC Middle East Correspondent, who has just returned from covering the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas, described a recent experience where she was taking cover in a refrigerator in Gaza during intense shelling.
“But sheltering in a fridge in Gaza is not the most dangerous situation I’ve been in,” she said, sharing details of her career that has taken her from Kosovo to Mexico. She paid tribute to other women journalists around the world, calling for a concerted approach to providing training and advice to help those struggling.
“I stand here tonight as a representative of many other women – I’m a journalist, I’m a woman, and I’m a mother.”
She described a number of challenges faced by women journalists where they might possibly be at a disadvantage to their male counterparts.
“As a woman you may run less fast and you have less strength to push off advances...as a woman in the field, this is where safety training is important”.
But she said there were times when being a woman opened to the door to situations that male colleagues might have difficulty entering.
“But it [being a woman] helps in other ways. We can talk to women who have been raped, or intimidated. Women [reporters] may hear these stories and report them in a different way.”
Minka Nijhus said that conflict did not discriminate between men and women in the media.
“Most dangers are the same to men and women,” she said.
“There’s no way to cover a war without risk, but someone has to go there and see what’s happening.”
‘No Woman’s Land’, which was first published in March on International Women’s Day, is the first book dedicated to the safety of women journalists. Since its publication in London, it has been launched in Norway on World Press Freedom Day, and now in the Netherlands.
With a foreword by the CBS correspondent Lara Logan who was sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square in 2011, 'No Woman's Land' is a unique collection of articles written by women from around the world who cover conflict, disasters, corruption and civil unrest.
“News of the violent sexual assault of the renowned CBS correspondent Lara Logan threw a real spotlight on the issue of the safety of women journalists around the world,” said Storm.
“Her’s was a big name, but behind that name are many hundreds more whose names we don't know, from small village radios to major networks, facing immense risks and challenges in their work as female journalists.
“In the days following the attack on Lara, we at INSI were bombarded by requests for information and advice, and we realised the there was no single source of advice and information for women journalists. As we worked hard to create one, we also realised that there was no one size fits all approach to the debate.
“The result of our work is before you today.”
Click here to read the Director of INSI's speech in full
Photo: Peter Ter Horst moderates the 'No Woman's Land' panel debate in The Hague with Katya Alder (BBC) and Minka Nijhuis (Trouw, Vrij Nederland, Radio 1) (Helena Williams)