Skip navigation

BLOCKED: Censorship at the Intersection of Gender, Race, and the Media

March 8, 2021


  • Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean Correspondent, Miami Herald
  • Kathy Gannon, News Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan, The Associated Press
  • Dr. Leta Hong Fincher, Author, Betraying Big Brother; American Journalist; Academic
  • Ece Temelkuran, Author, How to Lose a Country; Turkish Journalist


  • Dr. Chiedo Nwankwor, Director, SAIS Women Lead; Lecturer, African Studies Program, Johns Hopkins SAIS
  • Erin Thomas, Managing Editor, The SAIS Review
  • Elizabeth (Edie) Wilson, Editor-in-Chief, The SAIS Review

Four renowned international journalists celebrated International Women’s Day with SAIS Women Lead and the SAIS Review of International Affairs by critically discussing censorship of women journalists, especially women of color. From violence to COVID-19 to misogyny, the panelists analyzed many challenges shouldered by women in journalism. Dr. Chiedo Nwankwor, the Moderator, opened the event with an overview of the treatment of reporters across the globe, citing a February 2021 report by the Coalition for Women in Journalism on the abuse of and restraints on freedom of women journalists.
In thinking about censorship, Ece Temelkuran cited recent arrests of women press colleagues. She emphasized that many women self-censor and face pressure from patriarchal systems that prescribe specific roles and limitations for women journalists. For example, women reporters in the field often are required to act “sexless,” yet at the same time editors pigeonhole them into writing on “womanly” topics. Jacqueline Charles acknowledged an additional barrier some journalists face when they cannot freely leave the country they report on, which increases the pressure on these journalists to censor their work. Dr. Leta Hong Fincher reminded the audience of the disproportionate burden the pandemic places on women and discussed the impact of that burden on women in journalism.
The panelists also spoke of the impact of misogyny in particular affects women journalists. Temelkuran poined to the dangerous trend of rising misogynistic rhetoric worldwide, especially how it threatens up-and-coming women journalists. Adding on to that, Dr. Hong Fincher called out the entrenched sexism in media companies and the patriarchal censorship of feminist activists in China. Kathy Gannon praised the resilience of women reporting in conflict-affected areas, especially those who have suffered from traumatic experiences
Wrapping up, the journalists made recommendations to better the future of journalism, especially for women in the field. Charles urged for greater representation of diverse women in journalism, particularly in countries where women of color are gaining ground in politics. All of the panelists encouraged any journalists who were listening to trust their instincts, especially in high-risk situations. They recommended that reporters utilize their love of sharing stories to overcome any fears they have, and they emphasized the need for better protection of women journalists in order to reduce the pressure to self-censor.
Action Items from the Event:
(a)   Improve policies regarding hate speech on social media, harassment on- and off-line, and other threats to journalists to better protect reporters, particularly women and minorities, thereby decreasing the need to self-censor and the number of external censorship incidents
(b)  Reform the hiring and promotion pipelines to open the door for more diverse editors, creating more representative news/media companies and generating out-of-the-box stories
(c)   Implement pay transparency in the journalism sector to facilitate accountability and allow minorities and women journalists to advocate effectively for equal pay
(d)  Pursue equal protections for freelance journalists
Follow SAIS Women Lead on Instagram and Twitter and sign up for their newsletter to stay up-to-date on their upcoming events and the latest news about advancing women’s leadership.
Interested in the representation of women and nonbinary people in international relations, the gendered impact of crises, or feminist foreign policy? Look out for The SAIS Review of International Affairs Spring 2021 issue: Who Runs the World: A Look at Gender in International Affairs. Book review submissions are underway, and web submissions are open year-round.