‘Organisations did not prepare us for the possibility of work-related harassment’

Almost two-thirds of women journalists have experienced intimidation, threats or abuse including sexual harassment in relation to their work, according to the findings of the first global survey on violence and threats against women working in the news media.

The findings of the survey come at a time when the editor of a weekly news magazine has been arrested and faces charges of rape on the complaint of a female colleague.

Of the 822 respondents who were asked whether they had experienced ‘intimidation, threats or abuse’ in relation to work, 530 or 64 per cent said ‘yes,’ with the most commonly experienced types being abuse of power or authority (22.5 per cent), verbal, written or physical intimidation (21 per cent) and threats or attempt to damage reputation or honour (18.73 per cent). In most cases, the abuse was perpetrated by the boss, followed by supervisor, co-worker and interviewee.

Sexual harassment had been experienced by 46 per cent journalists and the most common place of sexual harassment was office, said 59 per cent of the respondents. Here, work colleagues topped the list of perpetrators followed by interviewees and bosses. The nature of sexual harassment ranged from ‘unwanted comments on dress and appearance’ (68 per cent), ‘suggestive remarks or sounds’ (57 per cent) and ‘jokes of a sexual nature’ (57 per cent).

Similarly, sexual violence related to work was reported by 63 per cent journalists with the incidents happening in the field or in office premises. As high as 85 per cent of the respondents said the nature of sexual violence was being touched in a sexual manner against their will.

Close to 80 per cent journalists said their organisations did not prepare them in any way for the possibility of work-related harassment or violence. The respondents were from across the globe, almost 50 per cent working with the newspapers and a majority of them being reporters.

The survey by the Washington, D.C.-based International Women’s Media Foundation and the London-based International News Safety Institute was conducted to coincide with the U.N.’s Global Forum for Media and Gender. It tracks instances of intimidation, threats and abuse, including sexual violence, physical violence, sexual harassment, racial harassment, ageism and digital security threats. It also measures prevention, protection and preparedness.

The survey also found that the majority of women who are harassed do not report what has happened to them, despite the fact that more than half of them confirmed that the experience had a psychological impact.

“It is shocking to see that more than half (64.48 per cent) of the 822 women journalists who responded to our survey have experienced some sort of ‘intimidation, threats or abuse’ in relation to their work,” said Elisa Lees Munoz, Executive Director of the IWMF.

“When we talk about safety for the media, we often think in terms of staying safe in war zones, civil unrest and environmental disasters, but how often do we think of the office as a hostile environment?” said Hannah Storm, Director of INSI.

Some respondents also claimed to have faced racial harassment involving derogatory name-calling, insults and racist jokes and verbal threats. A fourth of respondents had also experienced harassment on the grounds of age with the perpetrators here being their bosses.

Physical violence was confirmed by 22 per cent of journalists who participated in the survey done between July and November this year. The five most common types of physical violence was pushing, shoving, threats with an object or weapon, assault with an object or weapon and pinning or holding a person down.

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