By Rebeccah Cherotich
A recently released report by the African Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) painted a grim image of the state of affairs in the fourth estate, especially as pertains to the treatment of female journalists in the region.
The report notes that women in the industry are prone to harassment in their workstations compared to their male counterparts. The survey which was conducted between 2016 and 2021 in the East African region shows that despite the enactment of numerous policies to counter the vice, the devil remains in their implementation
The survey carried out in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania with the aim of examining gender dimensions of journalist safety based on UNESCO’s indicators, shows male and female journalists consulted had either experienced or witnessed workplace breaches of safety.
“Female journalists reported sexual harassments by the male editors, news sources, fellow journalists, politicians and their supporters,” read the report
Charity Komujjuruzi, Monitoring and evaluation coordinator at the African Freedom of Information Centre, pointed out, for instance, that Tanzania female journalists are “self-censoring” themselves compared to those operating in Kenya owing to safety concerns.
“Women journalists in Kenya face more sexual harassment in the newsroom, and 78% of victims do not report harassment for fear of being sucked,” said Komujjurizi during the release of the report
The situation has prompted calls from the African Freedom of Information Centre that urge the enactment and implementation of gender-responsive laws.
“We want to do this in collaboration with the media houses so that editors are more sensitized on the need to follow policies,” said Rosalia Omungo, the Chief Executive Officer, of Kenya Editors Guild.
Journalists who were interviewed during the survey included full-time and freelance journalists working in print, radio, TV, and online media platforms.
According to the report’s findings, both male and female journalists acknowledged that a number of safety issues overtly affected more females than male journalists.
“While male and female journalists reported being in physical danger, under surveillance, or stalked, the female journalists suffered sexual harassment and cyberbullying,” said the report
Besides, newsrooms are thought to be dominated by male journalists who are more likely to thrive than female counterparts who lag behind as a result of safety issues.
Respondents acknowledged the existence of women’s safety policies in the newsroom but reported their redundancy as many female journalists remained silent, especially when perpetrators were influential.
“There is a need of training several female journalists on individual safety, sensitizing media houses about sexual harassment, and supporting the creation of in-house safety policies,” the report recommended
United Nations is at the forefront in ensuring the safety of female journalists highlighting significant matters that show or impact the safety of journalists
The report was a follow-up to the AFIC 2020 study and recommendations on ‘The Urgent Need to Address Impunity against Freedom of Expression Practitioners in Africa’, which proposed African Union and Member State-level interventions to strengthen legislation, implementation, and oversight of the protection of journalists.