Women, no matter which region, field or context they are in, are no strangers to self-censorship. The social constructs of "good women" globally encourage submissive, compromising behaviour from women, and self-censorship, especially in matters of importance, is generally encouraged. Pakistani women are no different. Censoring themselves, especially if their opinions are dissenting from the mainstream, is second nature. At home and within their families, censoring their feelings to protect family harmony is drilled as a key "value". Women who don’t complain, women who don’t assert, women who are not vocally in opposition of louder, more powerful (often male) voices.
Thus, when Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) undertook research on self-censorship trends among journalists, the response of women journalists was of particular interest. For them, the experience of women journalists represents a double bind – as members of a community that is socially conditioned to see value in self-censorship, who are now practising a profession within which there are external pressures to be quiet about matters of perceived sensitivity, women are in a doubly vulnerable position.
This publication is a gendered version of MMfD's earlier publication Surrendering to Silence. It focuses on the experience of the women respondents of a survey, designed to map the presence of and elements related to self-censorship in professional and personal expression by journalists in Pakistan.
Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) is a young Islamabad-based non-profit, formed on the vision and the belief that a liberal, professional media industry is the cornerstone of a progressive, democratic society. Read more about their work here.