Linh-Lan Dao on Anti-Asian Racism & French Media

In the fourth episode of We Belong Podcast, we meet Linh-Lan Dao, a TV Journalist for France Info. She works at the fact-checking TV program ‘Vrai ou Fake’ and uses arts to explain the news on the Youtube channel Draw my news.

Following a controversial broadcast by two French humorists, Kev Adams and Gad Elmaleh, Linh denounced prejudice and racism against Asians in a video that reached 2.5 million views. She is committed to standing up to anti-Asian racism and has been particularly vocal since the outbreak of the coronavirus, shedding the light on anti-Asian discriminations, verifying news and tweeting with #Imnotavirus.

In our conversation with Linh-Lan, we discussed her passion for journalism and drawing. We also talked about the importance of giving a voice to Asian communities living in France and their representation in the media.

Episode available on Apple PodcastSpotifyAnchorYoutube and at the bottom of this post.

We Belong is the podcast that gives a voice to the New Daughters of Europe. Yasmine Ouirhrane, appointed expert by the European Union and the African Union, hosts this series of conversations with young women who represent the diversity of Europe. She talks to women who are breaking stereotypes, navigating multiple identities, and challenging the conventional wisdom of what it means to belong.

As an advocate for social and gender justice in Europe, Yasmine Ouirhrane was awarded Young European of the Year 2019 by the Schwarzkopf Foundation. She was also named EDD Young Leader by the European Commission and is an expert on Peace & Security at the AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub. She is an award-winning fellow at Women Deliver and a member of the Gender Innovation Agora at UN Women.

The Podcast is produced by Les Cavalcades.

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Why We Need Trauma-Sensitive Media & Journalism

I have read many news reports on war-time gender-based violence. As a therapist, I have often questioned the effects of journalists’ approaches on the women they work with. Sometimes, the story seems more important than the woman, her wounds and her healing.

For me, this raises questions – who does journalism benefit? Is it the woman who speaks up, the public, the news channels? And who has the responsibility to keep women who speak out safe?

It seems that media coverage of highly sensitive topics, such as war-time sexual violence, is not always about educating the public and empowering the speaker. Instead, it is about shock and entertainment.

The Al-Iraqiya news channel has received criticism for exactly this reason. They broadcasted an interview between a Yazidi woman and the ISIS fighter who had bought, captured and violently raped her multiple times a day.

In August 2014, ISIS set off to destroy Yazidi culture and religion. They did so through systematic killings, sexual slavery, torture and other atrocities in the Sinjar region in Northern Iraq. Thousands of girls and women have been captured and sold, leaving them in sexual enslavement of ISIS fighters. Girls would often be sold, or gifted, from one fighter to the other, undergoing extreme abuse and degradation at each of the fighters’ hands.

A great number of Yazidis are still missing. Others have found their way out and are living in refugee camps or trying to rebuild their life in a new country.

Ashwaq Haji Hamid, now 19, is one of the girls who managed to escape. She recently came face to face with her previous abuser during a TV interview set up by the Iraqi National Intelligence Service.

Ashwaq confronted him:

“You destroyed my life. You robbed me of all my dreams. I was once held by Isis, by you, but now you will feel the meaning of torment, torture, and loneliness. If you have any feelings, you would not have raped me when I was 14, the age of your son, the age of your daughter.”

After speaking these powerful words, while shaking and starting to cry, Ashwaq fainted at her former capturers’ feet. The video has been shared around the world, and has received mixed reactions. Critics stress the voyeuristic element, saying the interview was never about Ashwaq’s healing but about public entertainment.

Kurdish-German psychologist, Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, spoke out against the interview. He stated that the news channel:

“…cared about ratings of the show more than her … I know the survivor as my patient and it was medically an absolute contradiction to her severe trauma (to do the TV interview), as we saw with her fainting.”

The world needs to hear stories like Ashwaq’s. The Yazidi community have the right to be heard. Finding one’s voice can be a powerful and inspirational experience, with the potential to be healing and empowering.

Sensational journalism stands in stark contrast to how stories on gender-based violence should be told – in an empowering, trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive way.

We cannot prioritise entertainment over healing. The media cannot decide if and when it is in women’s interests to speak. Media outlets and journalists need to have a greater understanding of how their involvement can open deep wounds and re-traumatize those speaking out.

For this to happen, however, the conditions of stepping up and speaking out have to be set by the speakers themselves. This is what happened when winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Nadia Murad wrote about her experience with ISIS in her powerful book, ‘The Last Girl’.

The Last Girl offers an understanding of how life has changed for Yazidis since 2014. Most of all, the book inspires and insists on a call to action to achieve justice for the Yazidi community.

Media outlets working in a trauma-sensitive way must become the norm. Nadia Murad’s book is the perfect example of how telling a story and informing the public can go hand in hand with a process of empowerment and healing.

Violence against Women Online: Threatening Tweets toward Women

In response to a week of user complaints, head of Twitter UK, Tony Wang, apologized via his personal Twitter account to women who had received threats on Twitter:

According to BBC, individuals have been arrested “in relation to rape threats against Labour MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.” BBC also reports that similar threats were Tweeted to Hadley Freeman from The Guardian, Grace Dent from The Independent and Catherine Mayer from Time Magazine. Threats against Caroline Criado-Perez have been connected to her involvement with a campaign to add Jane Austen to the new  £10 note, while threats against MP Stella Creasy have continued over the weekend, and even escalated. Today, the Guardian reported that two more women, journalists India Knight and Laurie Penny, have also received bomb threats.

In light of the complaints, including a petition signed by over 129,000 users, Twitter has announced the addition of staff to manage abuse reports, updated its harassment policy, and promised that the “report abuse button” will be available on Twitter for Android and, in addition to the iOS Twitter app. Previously, the ability to report abuse was not directly linked to each tweet.

Ms. Criado-Perez is glad that action is being taken, but argues that it is a week late, and Twitter’s response does not adequately address the issue. “Right now all the emphasis is on the victim, often under intense pressure, to report rather than for Twitter to track down the perpetrator and stop them.” 

Ms. Mayer of Time Magazine is still awaiting a personal apology from Twitter, and directed remarks at Tony Wang: “If he (Mr. Wang) would like to make an apology to me, he can direct message me if he doesn’t want to do it publicly.” She also added that:

We’re not being targeted because we’re activists, we’re being targeted because we’re female.

Social media platforms need to become more sensitive and responsive to issues related to violence against women. These cases uphold a sad reality that  violence against women is still prevalent everywhere in the world, and that violence and abuse are “taking a new form” online, as noted by Ms. Creasy. 

We know how easy it is to make threats, use offensive language, and post offensive photos or videos online. Internet spaces can also at times blur the line between fantasy and reality, and lower the threshold for threatening behavior. When there is no accountability for threats made online, individuals see no reason to refrain from threats, abuse and use of offensive and degrading language. While some claims are unfounded, many are real and can have severe psychological effects on the victims.

Twitter has come to the table late on developing appropriate reporting tools, and has only done so in response to damaging threats that could have been prevented. Although the world is still learning the most efficient ways to adapt itself to online threats, we have known for a very long time that this is a major issue. Twitter’s reporting system was inadequate, and the repercussions are now surfacing. In light of the recent events, other social media platforms should take heed that there may be a push by users for more adequate abuse reporting mechanisms, and develop these as preventative measures instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

Women are not the only group being targeted with hateful messages in online spaces. Racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic remarks are constant across various social media platforms. With the increasing use of social media, regulators need to come up with more strategic approaches for prevention. With the Internet sometimes keeping us disconnected from the “real world” we need to start taking real approaches to change this mentality.

What content do you think should be acceptable to post or comment about online? What some individuals view as harassment, others do not. Should all posts be monitored, and should social media sites be responsible for ensuring that abuse does not occur? How can social media sites appropriately track their users in cases of abuse? Was Twitter’s response to these recent threats appropriate? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

You can also join the 129,000 plus people who have signed the petition to Add a Report Abuse Button to Twitter!

Featured image: Sallyeva/

"Journalism is not a profession, it's a mission"

"Journalism is not a profession, it's a mission"

– The only way to become a powerful nation is to start empowering your women.
These words come from Nandini Sahai from India, a woman who has been working as a journalist with focus on human development for more than 30 years.

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