Culture

5 female journalists that everyone should know about

Patricia Hului

Today, the journalism industry is tainted by the wild spread of fake news and the oppression against the media.

Plus, the digital age of information has not been entirely favourable towards journalism.

On the good side, news and information are easier and faster to dispense to the wider crowd.

At the same time, plagiarism and infringement of ideas take place faster and in a larger scale than we have ever imagined before.

While a good number of journalists are still taking pride in pursuing original stories, other so-called digital content creators are taking pleasure in rewording others’ articles.

Moreover, the online violence female journalists has increased ‘significantly’ according to UNESCO’s latest findings.

The UNESCO report carried out by the International Center for Journalists surveyed more than 900 female journalists from 125 countries. It found that nearly three-quarters of these female journalists had experienced online abuse.

The study also found that a quarter of those surveyed had been physically threatened. The reasons behind these threats include covering elections or conflicts, women’s rights or for reporting stories that identified as ‘male coverage’ such as sports. These reasons mostly are not the same reasons behind threats against male journalists.

Additionally, the contribution of female journalists have been always overshadowed by their male colleagues.

With that, let us remember these five female journalists whose writings have contributed to society and even influenced the course of history:

1.S.K. Trimuti

Indonesian journalist Soerastri Karma Trimurti (1912-2008) was also known as S. K. Trimuti.

She started her career as an elementary school teacher during the 1930s.

In 1936, the Dutch authorities arrested her for distributing anti-colonial leaflets.

Trimuti later was imprisoned for nine months at Bulu Prison in Semarang, Central Java.

Her arrest became a turning point in her life. Upon her release from prison, Trimurti quit her job as a teacher and became a journalist.

In order to avoid being arrested by the Dutch, Trimurti used different pseudonyms in her articles.

When World War II (WWII) broke out, the Japanese took control of her country.

During this time, Pesat, a newspaper she published together with her husband, was banned by the Japanese.

Unfortunately, Trimurti was also arrested and tortured by the Japanese.

After Indonesia achieved its independence, Trimurti ventured into politics.

She became Indonesia’s first Minister of Labour.

Today, there is a journalism award named after her called the SK Trimurti Award. The award is to recognise journalists’ efforts in fighting for gender equality in Indonesia.

2.Chit Estella

Today, Chit Estella is known for playing crucial part in the founding of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and of Vera Files.

These two are Philippines’ most prominent independent investigative journalism organisations.

Her work circled mostly on writing on government corruption and human rights violations.

At one point of her career, Estella was the editor in-chief of Pinoy Times. It was a Filipino tabloid that catalysed the ousting of Philippine President Joseph Estrada.

Sadly on May 13, 2011, the veteran journalist was killed after a bus slammed into the taxi that she was riding in Quezon City.

Her name is now among the 19 inscribed on the Monument of the Heroes Memorial Wall in Quezon City. The memorial is dedicated to those ‘who defied risks and dedicated their lives for the cause of truth, justice, peace and freedom of the Filipino people’ during Ferdinand Marcos’ regime.

This was in recognition of Estella’s early work as a journalist during the Martial Law period, a stunning 14-year period of one-man rule under Marcos spanning 1972 to 1986.

3.Daphne Caruana Galiza

This Maltese writer, journalist and blogger was a well-known figure for her works in investigative journalism.

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s reports focused on government corruption, organised crime, nepotism and money laundering.

Due to her writings, she was threatened and intimidated almost on adaily basis.

On Oct 16, 2017, a bomb which was placed in her car exploded, killing her immediately while she was driving.

As of November 2019, four men were arrested in connection of Galizia’s murder including Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech.

He was the owner of 17 Black Limited, a mysterious shell company Galizia had been looking into just before her untimely death.

In honour of Galizia, the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Award for Journalists, Whistleblowers & Defenders of the Right to Information was established in 2018.

4.Lin Zongsu

Lin Zongsu was born in Fujian Province in 1878, she was tutored by her mother at home as a child.

In 1902, she began her studies at the Patriotic Girls School of Shanghai.

As a student, she co-founded the first women student’s association called the Mutual Love Society.

The organisation published their views in the journal Jiangsu. It was through this journal Lin began her writing career, advocating for women’s rights.

After finishing her study, she started to work at her brother’s newspaper called the Chinese Vernacular News.

Lin also became an associate editor for the Daily Alarm. She wrote mostly about women’s rights during her career as a journalist.

In the end, both of the newspapers were forced to shut down in 1905.

After that, Lin went into politics, founding the Women’s Suffrage Comrades Alliance in 1911.

Her advocacy might be taken for granted today, but it was a significant move for women’s rights as Lin and other women in her organisation were fighting for women’s right to vote.

In 1913, democracy was suppressed under the Yuan Shikai regime in China.

Lin decided to leave the political world as well as China and moved to Singapore where she became teacher and ran a boating business. The money she earned was used to finance her brother’s newspaper in China.

After a decade in Singapore, Lin moved back to China where she passed away in 1944.

Today, she is remembered as one of China’s first female journalists and newspaper editors as well as a notable feminist activist.

5.Na Hye-sook

She was considered the first professional female painter and the first feminist writer in Korea.

Na Hye-sok published Korea’s first feminist short story, Kyonghui in 1918 at the age of 22.

It was about a woman who returns home to Korea from Japanese university to be confronted by people around her who do not believe in female education.

The short story resonated with Na’s life because at that time she was still studying at Tokyo Women’s College of Arts. She was taking a Bachelor of Arts in Western Painting, the first Korean woman to do so.

Na returned to Korea a year after she published Kyonghui.

Upon her return together with four other women, Na launched the first issue of Sinyoja or New Woman.

It was the first ever magazine for Korean women.

Na herself wrote several articles arguing about the practicality of Korean female dresses.

Japanese authority who ruled Korea at that time, shut down Sinyoja after only four issues.

The writer continued to write ‘controversial’ articles while juggling her career as a painter.

In the end, her article in the Samcheolli magazine in 1934 called ‘A Divorce Confession’ became Na’s most controversial write-up.

She openly talked about her sex life, pointing out that her former husband had not sexually satisfied her.

The painter also criticized male-dominance in Korean society in the article.

Her most eyebrow-raising statement was that she advocated domestic partnership before real marriage to take place.

After her article was published, the conservative Korean society was not having it. From then, nobody wanted to hire her to write, or buy her paintings.

Despite her wealthy upbringing, Na ended up living in poverty and spending her last years on charity.

She passed away alone on Dec 10, 1948 in a hospital. To this day, no one knows the location of her grave.

Her name became a phrase to reprimand young girls interested in literary or artistic aspirations as the scolding “Do you want to become another Na Hye-sok?” became widely used.

Thankfully, since then Na has been acknowledged in South Korea for her painting and writing with a retrospective featured at the Seoul Arts Centre in 2000. Even Google celebrated her 123rd birthday in 2019 with a doodle.