Female Journalists double victims of harrassment

By Frezer Zewude

In the fourth edition of the Academic Conference on Safety of Journalists bringing together researchers from different disciplines, Opportunity to to network with decision makers and media practitioners as well as share their academic work.

Organisers were UNESCO, Makerere University, OsloMet University, The University of Sheffield and The University of Malaga.

The session on The safety of women Journalists (Panel A) had Noor Rabia (Pakistan) on Female TV Journalists defying newsroom culture: A qualitative study of Pakistani Media; Samiksha Koirala (Nepal) on Online harassment against female journalists; Hacqueline Ondimu (Kenya) on Online threats against women journalists in Kenya and Yetunde Ayobolu (Nigeria) on Assessing the presence and challenges of women in the political desk in democrtic era in Nigeria. The panel was moderated by Ruth De Frutos who is a Coordinator and UNESCO chair in Media Freedom Journalism Safety and the Issue of Impunity at the University of Malaga. Silvia Chocarro, the Head of Protection, ARTICLE 19 was the respondent for the discussions.

From this discussion it was clear that whereas journalists generally face serious professional challenges, female journalists face, in addition, challenges just becasue they are women. These challenges range from glass-ceiling limitations, harrassment, intimidation and impunity from perpetuators. This picture is not just limited to the more traditional media like newspapers, radio and TV, the harassment has also shifted to online channels of communication indicating that new media has led to the continuity of the disenfranchisement of female journalists.

According to one discussant:

‘Harrassment makes it unconfortable to cover a specific area if your harasser is your news source. I know it was an exclusive story, but merely dropped the story as carrying it means to reach the same person who was harassing me online’ - Samiksha sharing results from her study of Nepalese female journalists.

We also learnt that harassment had serious consequences on women’s professional journeys as one female journalists is quoted here:

«I recieved several messages on my facebook and Twitter, most of them in the form of private messages. It included physical threats, some of the comments were also sexists in nature. I was so frustrated that i even considered quitting the profession. Once the number of abusive messages stopped, I gradually started focusing on journalism and dropped the idea of leaving the journalism» Samiksha sharing results from her study of Nepalese female journalists.

According to Ondimu, Kenya female journalists face online harassment including; Public shaming, through degrading memes, sexual hate speech, creation of fake profiles, hashtags, photos and edited graphics.

Odimu, Ayobolu, Koirala and Rabia’s findings confirm what the Survey report (carried out 2013-2014) on ‘Violence and Harassment against women in the news media: a global picture’ by the International Womens Media Foundation (IWMF) and the International News safety Institute (INSI).

The above report shows that:

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (1000) said they had experienced some form of intimidation, threats or abuse in relation to their work, ranging in severity from name-calling to death threats.

The survey found that the majority of threats, intimidation and abuse directed toward respondents occurred in the work place and was perpetrated most often by male bosses, supervisors and co-workers. It also found that most incidents of harassment and violence were never reported, even though a majority of women who experienced them said they were psychologically affected.

In addition, the survey gathered data regarding sexual violence, physical violence, sexual harassment, and information security threats experienced by women journalists as well as what measures have been taken for prevention, protection and preparedness within news organizations.


More on the Survey on Violence and Harassment against women in the news media: a global picture