The Ferret conference shows how good investigative journalism can challenge gender inequality

At Zero Tolerance we are working hard to support the media in Scotland to improve their engagement with the issue of violence against women. This is why we founded the Write to End Violence Against Women Awards and why we continue to engage with media outlets whenever we can. We know that the media has a vital role when it comes to shaping public attitudes, with the potential to be a real force for change.

With that in mind I was excited to attend the first Ferret conference in Glasgow to meet others interested in improving journalism. The Ferret is a new media platform dedicated to investigative journalism and ‘nosing up the trousers of power’.

At Zero Tolerance we are particularly interested in ‘how power can be held to account and what we can do to build a better media in the future’, so I was particularly keen to attend.

The whole day was fascinating and really emphasised the role of investigative journalism in speaking truth to power, which has an important relevance for those of us campaigning to prevent and eradicate men’s violence against women.

From an upcoming piece about police brutality in Britain, to a heart-wrenching film about migrants and refugees in Calais, to the fascinating insights from the team behind the Panama papers, there was a lot to learn about quality journalism, as well as many connections to be made to gender equality and men’s’ violence against women.

The Ferret’s recent investigation about the suffering of women with no recourse to public funds is a real must read, and shows the impacts of immigration policies on the most vulnerable women and girls.

It was particularly inspiring to hear Nicole Kleeman from Firecrest films talk about her experiences making the film ‘Lord Rennard, sexual harassment and Lib Dem failures’. Rennard held the keys to the Lib Dem purse strings, and as a result was very powerful within the party. Rennard used his position of power to harass women who would go on to struggle to see justice done when they reported the abuse.

Throughout the film making process there were concerns about the fact accusations would be ‘their word against his’, a narrative that those of us working in the women’s sector find all too familiar. Although the film-maker spoke to many women who shared their stories of Rennard’s abuse, few were prepared to share their stories on camera, but many others said they would back up these claims should a liable action be pursued.

Through giving women a platform to speak and encouraging others to come forward, Firecrest films were directly responsible for launching an enquiry within the Liberal Democrats and highlighted how violence against women is, at its heart, an abuse of male power.

This is a great example of a film challenging ingrained misogyny prevalent within the power structures of our institutions, and shows how the best journalism can give a platform to those routinely denied it.

That is the sort of journalism we look forward to seeing more of at Zero Tolerance.

If you have seen any good journalism in Scotland lately, why not nominate it for the 2016 Write to End Violence Against Women Awards here!

For more information about The Ferret you can check out TheFerret.scot

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