‘Sexual harassment prevalent in newsrooms’

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BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
SEXUAL harassment is said to be prevalent among women in the media, with the latest global study revealing that at least 40% of females in the sector have experienced some form of harassment at their workplaces.

Speaking during the virtual launch of a report by WAN-IFRA Women in News (WIN) in partnership with the University of London, WIN director Melanie Walker said: “Women are disproportionately affected by sexual harassment in the media sector. While we have known this anecdotally, the findings from this research show that it is happening irrespective of geography. There should be policies and tools in place to manage such incidents when they do occur.”

The WIN study, which is the largest of its kind, was carried out in 20 countries, Zimbabwe included.

It was carried out between November 2020 and September 2021, and more than 2 000 respondents were interviewed.

It also revealed that while some media women were sexually harassed, only 20% chose to report the crimes.

Last year during a workshop on sexual harassment in the media conducted by Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF Africa), local female journalists admitted that there was rampant work-related sexual harassment.

WIN local programmes manager Molly Tsitsi Chimhanda said abused women were not reporting the cases due to the tedious processes involved in filing a report.

“Reporting rates are low (one in five) and this is a huge problem. Some are afraid, while others lack the means and processes to file a report. Most of the women interviewed during the research said they were scared of losing their jobs and retaliation from the perpetrators who are often in positions of authority,” she said.

Chimhanda said male journalists had not been spared, but did not report the cases as “this was not a big deal”.

“Though less prevalent, men have not been spared from sexual harassment with an average of 12% experiencing verbal or physical harassment,” she said.

In most African countries, 80% of sexual harassment cases in the media go unreported.
Of the few cases that are reported, perpetrators mostly got away with a warning.
 Follow Phyllis on Twitter@pmbanje