Arzu Geybullayeva is a columnist and journalist with a special focus on human rights and press freedom. Arzu has written for Al Jazeera, Open Democracy, Eurasianet, Foreign Policy Democracy Lab, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty and so on. She was featured on BBC 100Women Changemakers in 2014.
ARZU, YOU HAPPEN TO WORK AS A JOURNALIST IN A VERY INTERESTING TIME. DIGITALIZATION IS TRANSFORMING MEDIA LANDSCAPE AS MUCH AS ANY OTHER FIELD, BUT DOES IT ELIMINATE INDUSTRY’S GENDER IMBALANCE PROBLEM?
I think this is a very timely question, however, I am afraid, there is no clear black and white response. While you are absolutely right in talking about digitalization of media landscape and how much it has transformed the future of news making, I do not necessarily think, it has had much impact on elimination of gender inequality. In essence it is mostly the platforms rather than the content and reporting that had changed.
Newsrooms are still dominated by male writers/reporters/editors/producers.
I am sure you have seen the recent studies and reports about the inequalities and the gender gap pay that prevails across newsrooms. Surely there are platforms that are keen on making changes, chief among them the BBC but there is still a long way to go because it is not just about gender inequality or pay gap but it goes much deeper - take correspondents vs. fixers inequality (and add to that the fact checkers too) who are often treated as less qualified or that they should share their knowledge of countries they are based for free.
AS MANY WOMEN AS MEN ARE GRADUATING FROM JOURNALISM DEGREE PROGRAMMES AND ENTERING THE INDUSTRY, BUT WOMEN DON’T EVEN MAKE A HALF OF THE MEDIA WORKFORCE. WHAT MAKES WOMEN TO DROP OUT?
This question is like a pandora box (smile). Where do I begin - if you look from a cultural point of view it is possible to say that journalism falls into the category of “male” jobs - at least, when I was thinking of getting into journalism, I was told what was I thinking, given how tough the working environment is, and that I would have to work and interact with male colleagues who are not always the kindest.
There is also the question of harassment - as with any other workspace, regardless of the field, the chances of getting physically and verbally harassed if you are a woman, are pretty high. Surely, in some places this is less than in others, and is a constant struggle by the management to eliminate but not always and not always just because there is an anti-harassment policy, you as a woman won’t be harassed.
Then there is the white/male/western dominance when it comes to correspondents who often think that having a local fixer who is a woman, makes her less of a person, or less experienced for this or other reason. Which is absolutely wrong and a misconception that needs effective solution as well, which as been addressed in this story by a good friend of mine.
NEW DIGITAL TOOLS AND DIRECT ACCESS TO GLOBAL NEWS CONSUMERS CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR INDIVIDUAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP. COULD THIS BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN TO ADVANCE TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF THEIR CAREER WITHOUT FACING OBSTACLES IN MALE-DOMINATED BOARDROOMS OF TRADITIONAL MEDIA?
I think this is possible, and there are projects run by women, for women - but while I find these initiatives a great way to utilize the knowledge and skills of so many talented and professional female journalists,
I think it takes away the responsibility from traditional media which needs reforms, changes and addressing these problems.
It is almost like, women solving their own problems themselves (as they often do) and letting men, go about their business - essentially changing little in the long term.
YOU ARE SPECIALISED IN HUMAN RIGHTS AND PRESS FREEDOM ISSUES. IS THERE STILL DEMAND FOR THIS TYPE OF NEWS OR NEW GENERATIONS MORE RELATE TO BRAND JOURNALISM?
The world we live in today, is full of human rights and freedom of the press violations and stories. And it is not just one geographical region but the whole world. Its like the virus has spread and we are on the verge of an epidemic.
This is why, there will always be a need for stories exposing human rights violations across the world and Azerbaijan is no exception. I think it is also about broader context - Azerbaijan is facing many issues - corruption, social inequality, gender inequality, violence against women, early marriages, transparency and so much more - all these are human rights issues and all deserve as much coverage as possible. The problem about reporting on Azerbaijan is that there is not always enough interest among international outlets so its crucial to find the outlet that is interested and that would cover the stories from Azerbaijan on regular basis.
At the end of the day, it is mostly about your own calling as a journalist - what matters more? Being part of a brand journalism bandwagon, or finding the niche and writing on specific stories from a specific country?
When I started this journey as a journalist ten years ago, I knew what I wanted to do - tell stories and never at any point, did I think of this profession as something I could make a living on - because I knew, being a freelancer, from Azerbaijan, focusing on Azerbaijan, is a very specific task and I got into it for story telling and raising awareness. To me, that too is the kind of brand journalism - it all depends on how you look at it I suppose at the end of the day.