Gambia: 'Harassment Against Female Journalists a Cause of Concern'

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A principal programme officer and coordinator at UNESCO/NATCOM has lamented that the increasing number of sexual harassment of female journalists is a cause for concern. She, however, affirmed that when the draft bill is passed and assented to, it would serve as a warning that the days of sex for work and promotion in media organisations is coming to an end.

Maimuna Sidibeh was speaking on Friday at a day's national forum on sexual harassment policy for the media convened by Women Journalists' Association of The Gambia - WOJAG and The Gambia Press Union

The Gambia Press Union, through the Women Journalists Association of The Gambia, is implementing a project, entitled 'Breaking the Gender Barriers in the Media. The 12-month project is funded by the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

She continued: "We are aware that quite a number of women newspaper journalists are sexually harassed and these harassments ranged from degrading comments to physical sexual assault. There have been stories that demand "for sex from young employees most especially those coming new into the profession, before they can be given assignments or even have their stories published".

Recently, IFJ statistics, she explained revealed that "at least one in every two journalists have suffered sexual harassment, psychological abuse, online trolling and other forms of human rights abuse".

Workplace discrimination, she went on, had denied many competent female journalists their deserving right to move up the ladder or even to cover very important beats for the political or economic departments of the media houses.

"Most of these beats or assignments are often given to male journalists some of whom are not as competent as their female colleagues in the same department. As we speak, we are aware that most young women are unwilling to take up print journalism as a career and newspaper houses have fewer women as compared to some few years ago," she added.

She said that as the harassments continue, many female journalists still do not report such incidences, many organisations still do not have reporting systems and some newsrooms still believe there are beats exclusively preserved for men.

"Although sexual harassment does not discriminate by gender, there are generally more women who are targeted and sexually harassed than men. Even in today's modern society, women are on average paid less than men and are still treated differently in the workplaces, simply because of their sex".

She acknowledged that women constitute a significant number of media practitioners; but their condition of work is mainly a reflection of the condition of the country's women population.

Female journalists, she added, are faced with patriarchy systems or socio-cultural and religious stereotypes that considered their position and role in society as inferior to that of men, neither are they expected to be heard or seen in public spheres.

This, she explained, is reflective of the situation in the broadcast industry, adding that they are faced with job insecurity in the newsrooms; lack of adequate skills compared to their male counterparts; low prospects of promotion and unacceptable levels of vulnerability to male bosses.

"The under-representation of women journalists in key decision making positions in the Gambian media institutions contributes to the under-reporting of women's issues. This subtly leads to the equitable way that media images reflect or reinforce stereotypes about men and women and replicate traditional/ societal inequalities unfavourable to women".

She expressed optimism that at the end of the day, the ideas put forward by participants would be put to good use.

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