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Breaking the silence: Women journalists fight harassment in the newsroom

By Winfrey Owino | July 7th 2021

Only 30 per cent of sexual harassment cases in the media industry are reported to the authorities. [Courtesy]

Women in media have decried the failure in the implementation of principles and policies against sexual harassment in media outlets.

This is according to new research done in eight African countries, including Kenya, which revealed the need for media houses to recognise and put in place measures to curb sexual harassment in the workplace.

The report was conducted by the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)'s Women in News (WIN) programme across eight African countries Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

“It all starts with a conversation on what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in your media organisation, being explicit about sexual harassment, sharing definitions, noting behaviours that are unacceptable, and reiterating the right of every employee to be treated equally,” said Melanie Walker, Executive Director, Women in News.

“The less confidence there is in an organisation’s ability to address the problem, the less likely people are to see value in calling it out and the cycle will perpetuate,” Walker said.

The research also established that only 30 per cent of sexual harassment cases in the media industry are reported to the authorities as victims fear losing their jobs, being ignored and being stigmatised.

Interestingly, nearly half of workplace managers who took part in the research (32 media managers) said they felt the industry no longer has a sexual harassment problem.

Others, more than half of them, said they had been the target of harassment, a trait they say is slowly fading away.

The new research released on Tuesday has echoed the findings of the November 2020 Media Council of Kenya report, that pushed for policy implementation to provide a safer working environment.

Queenter Mbori, President of the Standard Group Women Network, reiterated the importance of sharing information and training staff on sexual harassment.

“Most policies are gathering dust in organisations. People just do them to tick off boxes but in terms of implementation, it remains a big challenge. The women’s network gave us the opportunity to follow up and we have seen a number of benefits as a result of that,” she said.

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