WIN toolkit tackles newsroom sexual harassment

Women In News’ new guide for tackling sexual harassment wants to empower to empower media organisations with useful tools to creating a harassment-free industry.

The WIN toolkit targets the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers’ as a resource for journalists working for the more than 18 000 publications and 15 000 sites, including the staff of the more than 3000 companies represented in more than 120 countries.

Newsrooms are also on the crosshairs of the #MeToo and #Time’sUp campaigns which empower women to report sexual harassment and assault. The campaigns have since become a global movement that has triggered action in many countries.

frayintermedia's May 2017 research, African Journalists on Social Media, shows online sexual harassment affects both men and women journalists. However, more than six times more women than men are affected. Women encountered their harassers during the course of completing the routine tasks of journalism.

Women encountered their harassers during the course of completing the routine tasks of journalism.

The WIN guide says sexual harassment in news media is a pervasive and global problem. WIN’s 2017 survey on harassment against women in media from 9 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) shows the many instances of harassment. The survey found that sub-Saharan Africa, represented by the top figure, has higher incidents of harassment than the MENA region.

The problem of sexual harassment in newsrooms in Africa continues despite various instruments developed to mitigate against gender disparities.

For example, article 22 of the SADC Protocol on Gender which countries in the region are signatory to the protocol to taking a proactive approach in dealing with the scourge.

By 2015 all parties should have enacted laws, reformed and enacted progressive policies and developed programmes aimed at defining and prohibiting sexual harassment.

Earlier this year South Africa’s media was saddled with the problem when a senior executive at Primedia resigned after sexual harassment complaints were laid based on how he is said to have behaved at a staff function.

The country's state broadcaster SABC will conduct a commission of inquiry into sexual harassment in the broadcaster's newsrooms between June and July. The inquiry is at the behest of the ad hoc parliamentary committee investigating governance during the tenure of the organisation's former CEO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

WIIN’s toolkit describes two categories of sexual harassment in the workplace. The first relates to behaviour that creates a “hostile working environment” for fellow workers.

Such behaviour includes things like a colleague watching pornography in the presence of others, offensive posters and highly sexually charged workplace banter. According to the guide a person’s working environment becomes hostile even if they merely witness the harassment of another colleague.

The other category is “quid pro quo” when it affects the status of their employment. In such cases a person is threatened with the loss of a job or a negative appraisal of their work if they refuse to give in to sexual demands.

The toolkit says media employers should understand the scale of sexual harassment in their the media and should commit to having zero tolerance organisations. They must be aware of fears harassment victims may have such being victimised or losing employment because they laid a complaint.

Victims might also be unable to report incidents because they are too ashamed or think they will not be believed. The guide suggests the use of both formal and informal reporting mechanisms but stresses that all cases should be treated seriously.

*The details of frayintermedia's social media research have been updated. Find the full report here.

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