Gender Equality and Media Regulation

A Global Study
by Sarah Macharia and Joan Barata Mir

The study was initiated by Fojo Media Institute and conducted in collaboration with Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg. With International Media Support (IMS) as a contributing partner, as well as The International Training Programme 295: “Media Development in a Democratic Framework”. All parts of the project were funded by Sida/Sweden.


In 1995, 189 UN member states agreed to measures to advance women’s rights and gender equality in and through the media, enshrined in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for the Advancement of women (BPfA). Critical Area ‘J’ of the global policy blueprint spells out specific actions for governments and other actors to “increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision making in and through the media and new technologies of communication”, (Strategic objective J.1.) and “promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media (Strategic objective J.2.).

Similar to provisions in other policy instruments prior to and following the BPfA’s adoption, area J intimated at possible tensions between guaranteeing women’s freedom of expression on the one hand and respecting media freedom and independence on the other hand.

Freedom of expression and media freedom are however not mutually exclusive, both are necessary for democracy and protected in international standards. FoE and freedom of information are granted to everyone, and not only media outlets or professional journalists.

The global gender equality and media regulation study was motivated by a need to understand approaches and experiences in media law and policy, and to derive lessons for securing women’s right to freedom of expression in and through the media. The findings point to recommendations for media regulatory and self-regulatory bodies, for media organisations, and more broadly, for media development agencies, civil society and researchers. A pathway to bolster regulatory frameworks is proposed.

Parallel to the global study, case studies were developed in a sample of countries in which Fojo Media Institute is active, namely, Armenia, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Somalia, Sweden and Zimbabwe.