Press Talk: Gender and News - Giving Voice to the Voiceless

A joint blog by Vu Tuyet Trang, Vu Thu Ha, Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, Tran Thi Khanh Van, and Nguyen Viet Lan

October 18, 2023
UNDP in Viet Nam

"No one can be happy until everyone has a voice." 
“Journalists give voice to the voiceless”.
“The pen you hold has power, let use it wisely.”

These powerful words, spoken by Canadian Ambassador Shawn Steil, Associate Professor of the University of British Columbia Minelle Mahtani, and Norwegian Ambassador Hilde Solbakken respectively, resonated throughout a meaningful discussion today on the critical role of media in promoting gender equality. 

The Press Talk on Gender and News was co-hosted by the embassies of Canada, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland - collectively known as G4 - and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the Women Journalists' Club under the Viet Nam Journalists' Association. It gathered a diverse group of media participants from print, radio, television, to explore the ethical considerations and language usage when reporting on gender-related issues. This gathering aimed to foster a practical dialogue on the power of media in advocating for gender equality.

The event featured a series of insightful presentations:

Newspapers and Efforts to Combat Gender-Based Violence
Ms. Vu Huong Thuy from the Viet Nam News Agency highlighted the critical role of newspapers in raising awareness and combating gender-based violence. Her presentation emphasized the need for responsible and sensitive reporting to drive meaningful change.

Reporting on Gender Issues on Television
Ms. Nguyen Thu Ha from the VTV Center for Digital Content Production and Development discussed the challenges and opportunities in reporting on gender issues in television media. She underlined the influence of television in shaping public opinion and the necessity of responsible storytelling.

Benefits and Challenges Faced by Journalists in Gender-Focused Newspapers
Ms. Tran Hoang Lan, from the Capital Women Newspaper, delved into gender-focused journalism. She discussed the advantages and hurdles that journalists encounter when covering gender issues, emphasizing the importance of nuanced reporting.

Reporting with Care: Sharing Best Practices on Gender-Related Issues
Associate Professor Dr Minelle Mahtani, a Canadian award winning journalist, scholar and broadcaster, offered her perspective on reporting on gender sensitive issues. Her presentation underscored the need for careful consideration of language and imagery to avoid perpetuating stereotypes and biases. 
The G4 Ambassadors collectively applauded the event's purpose, stressing the important role of media in advancing gender equality. They expressed their commitment to supporting gender-sensitive reporting and media initiatives in Viet Nam. 

“I am deeply impressed by journalists’ insights on opportunities and challenges of our brave journalists in the fight to end gender-based violence, and to cover gender issues. Media is a powerful medium that both reflects and shapes society and raises awareness,” said H.E. Shawn Steil, Canadian Ambassador to Viet Nam. 

“While both Viet Nam and New Zealand might have much to be proud of when it comes to gender equality, the same cannot be said of our success in ending gender-based violence. Both countries have much work to do in this area - and journalists play an absolutely critical role. You have to tell the story for the women who aren’t yet able to speak for themselves,” said H.E Tredene Dobson, New Zealand Ambassador to Viet Nam.

“As the Women’s Day in Viet Nam is approaching, it is an opportunity for journalists of any gender to reflect on how you can contribute to greater gender equality,” said H.E. Hilde Solbakken, Norwegian Ambassador to Viet Nam in her opening remarks. “The pen you hold has power, and I hope you all use it wisely”.

“Gender bias and stereotyping are still major issues in many parts of the world, with far-reaching implications for how we live together as a society. Good journalism can make a difference by raising awareness and challenging the reflexive stereotypes we all too often use in our daily language, for instance,” said Deputy Chief of Mission of Switzerland Aldo De Luca.

With more than 800 media agencies in Viet Nam, media holds the power to shape society's perceptions and attitudes. This press talk serves as a timely reminder that the media's role extends beyond reporting; it is a means of empowerment, advocacy, and driving social change. 

“Media can empower, inspire, and drive change, but it can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and biases. This dual capacity underscores the immense responsibility that journalists bear when reporting on gender-related topics,” said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Patrick Haverman. “By upholding ethical standards and promoting sensitive and inclusive language, we can contribute to a world where every individual is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their gender”. 

A case study analysis was then facilitated by Ms. Tran Le Thuy, a communication lecturer, providing a practical perspective on implementing the discussed concepts in real-life reporting. 

The key takeaways from the press talk were the tips for reporting on gender-related issues, emphasizing responsible, accurate, and inclusive reporting that respects individuals' self-identified gender and their intersectionality with other aspects of identity.

By giving voice to the voiceless and promoting ethical and inclusive journalism, the media can contribute to a more equitable and just society where everyone truly has a voice./.