Gabriela Cañas, president of the Spanish news agency Agencia EFE, strongly urged her counterparts during a forum held Thursday in the Austrian capital not to "let our guard down" or look the other way in defense of Afghan women and the rights of journalists in their own country.
"We have learned the lesson that democracy, equality, and press freedom are values that always go hand in hand. If one of them is not respected, it is obvious that the others do not do any better," Cañas said during the telematic gathering.
"It is no coincidence that in addition to the repression of Afghan women, the Taliban have already closed down more than 150 media houses and hundreds of journalists have run away in terror," she said.
"Women journalists in the West, and especially those of us who run media, cannot look the other way. The cruel discrimination that Afghan women are already suffering is a crime. It is as repugnant as the (1948-1991) Apartheid South Africa established, and the international community should react with the same determination," Cañas said.
The Agencia EFE president participated in a panel with Armela Krasniqi, chairperson of Albania's Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) and until recently president of the Albanian agency ATA; with Mónica García, from the Portuguese news agency LUSA, and with Branka Vojvodic, Director General of the Croatian news agency HINA.
The four agreed on the need for women, with a large presence in the newsrooms, not to see the possibilities of assuming positions of responsibility in their companies as being limited.
Thursday's debate was held during the general assembly of the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA), in which representatives from its 32 associated media participate.
EFE's president noted the recent appointment of women to positions of maximum responsibility in Reuters (editor-in-chief) and The Associated Press (president) for the first time in the history of these nearly two-hundred-year-old news agencies.
Cañas, the first woman to head the top Spanish news agency in its 82 years of existence, pointed out that women, like men, do not come to the management of companies with a book of instructions.
"I don't know if women and men have a different way of exercising leadership," acknowledged the journalist, who has held the presidency of EFE since February 2020.
"But if female leadership has one distinctive virtue that makes it almost unique, it is its symbolic strength and also its ability to encourage other women to accept positions of responsibility," she said.
"I believe, in short, that women leaders are more likely to empower female talent and, in the media, to balance the way we look at the world. That perspective must be, in equal proportion, as masculine as it is feminine. But until a few years ago, the media's approach was predominantly masculine," Cañas said.
In the debate, moderated by Peter Kropsch, president of EANA and Chief Executive Officer of the German agency DPA, Cañas stressed the great effort made by news agencies during the pandemic to inform citizens and fulfill their duty of public service.
"We have proven that a healthy democratic system does not work without the crucial role of impartial news agencies, but we must broaden the horizon," Cañas said while advocating for egalitarian systems that offer the same opportunities to men and women.
Although she acknowledged that full gender parity had not yet been reached in her company, "the situation of women workers is comparatively better than in the Spanish media sector."
The gender gap in EFE, Gabriela Cañas explained, stands at 92% (that is, they earn 92% of what a man earns), while in the Spanish media that gap is 82%.
"We have a long way to go, but we are not starting from scratch and we must continue on a path that leads to more fair and better-governed companies," she concluded. EFE