COVID-19: Women issues found little space in print media, finds study

Only 4.8% of news stories monitored had anything of significance with regard to women and / or gender issues

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 10 March 2021

The livelihood issues of women in the formal as well as informal sectors were under-reported by the mainstream Indian print media during the lockdown imposed to curb the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a recent study.

This study, commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund and Population First and conducted by members of the Network of Women in Media India (NWMI), focused on how the Indian print media addressed gender issues and concerns during COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown reportage.

As many as 6,110 stories published in 12 newspapers were analysed between March and September 2020.

The study, titled Locating Gender Persepectives in COVID-19 Reportage in India, found that only 4.8 per cent of the news stories monitored had anything of significance with regard to women and / or gender issues.

The report found that in cities, the informal labour done by women was more acknowledged by the print news media, but it mostly centered around how they were discriminated against. Even when the media did report on the burden of unpaid work that fell on women during the pandemic / lockdown, it heavily only talked about the urban middle-class women.

The one area where the media consistently acknowledged women as professionals during the pandemic coverage was as healthcare and essential care workers, the study found.

The study analysed three to four pages of the newspapers in question: The front page, the main city page and / or the main district page and the main nation page. It found that attention was paid to news stories, feature stories, photo-features and photographs related only to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown.

The study added:

Voices of women and other marginalised genders were frequently absent as sources and experts in the reportage. News reports often failed to include the voices of women and trans people even when a story or an issue directly impacted them.

News stories focused on the challenges posed by online education, as well as the postponement and re-scheduling of state and national exams, but a very few stories brought out the gender dimensions of the issue, the study noted.

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