“Independent, free, pluralistic and diverse media is essential for democracy. This creates an imperative and urgency for States and media outlets to work proactively to ensure women’s safety, equal participation and representation in the media sector.”

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the UN Special Rapporteur issued a Joint Declaration on freedom of expression and gender justice in collaboration with freedom of expression experts from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

The Joint Declaration focuses on challenges to women’s freedom of expression and the roles and responsibilities of States, internet intermediaries and media outlets to address them.

“International human rights law has made it clear that it is not enough for States only to refrain from unlawfully restricting women’s freedom of opinion and expression. They are obliged to proactively remove structural, systemic and legal barriers that inhibit women’s free expression and public participation,” Khan said.

The Joint Declaration calls on States, the private sector, including media outlets, social media platforms and civil society to address social discrimination, gender stereotyping, entrenched bias, misogyny and interpretations of religion, culture and custom, as well as sexual and gender-based violence and discriminatory laws and policies, that are at the root of gendered censorship.

Noting the vital importance of the internet and access to information for women’s empowerment, the Declaration urges governments to accelerate efforts to close the gender digital divide and cautions social media platforms to ensure their business practices and automated or algorithmic processes do not amplify gender stereotypes, bias, misogyny and gender-based violence.

“Internet intermediaries must respect and uphold women’s human rights and ensure their safety online, including through secure digital communications, strong encryption and anonymity-enhancing tools, products and services,” said Khan.