IFJ denounces sexual harassment of female journalists

Rafat Salami,Dakar


The International Federation of Journalists IFJ, has expressed concern over increasing sexual harassment of female journalists warning that the days of sex for promotion in media organisations was coming to an end.

The IFJE says it is concerned that there are demands “for sex from young employees most especially those coming new into the profession, before they can be assigned to beats or even have their stories published.” It therefore said it is working with the Global Trade Union Movement in campaigning for a new international labour convention to tackle various forms of gender-based violence that occur in the workplace.

The IFJ made this known in a Solidarity Statement to the Continental Workshop on “Gender Equality and Safety Workshop for female journalists”, which had 46 female journalists from twenty-eight countries including Bhutan, in attendance. The workshop of the trainers was organized by the Norwegian Union of Journalists in collaboration with Journalists unions in Africa, through the Federation of African Journalist, which had fifty journalists from twenty-eight countries including Norway and Bhutan.

The Director, IFJ Africa. Pa Louis Thomasi who delivered the message for the global body, told the participants that IFJ was concerned with increasing cases of sexual harassment of women journalists especially in the newsrooms. He said IFJ statistics revealed thatat least one in every two journalists have suffered sexual harassment, psychological abuse, online trolling and other forms of human rights abuse”.

With reference to Africa, Pa Louis said unions on the African continent had reported “numerous cases of sexual violence against women journalists and other forms of harassment and intimidation including workplace discrimination with regards to positions

Workplace discrimination had denied many competent female journalists their deserving right to move up the ladder or even to cover very important beats for the political of 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 house have fewer women as compared to some few years ago. This is the reality in countries like Angola and Zimbabwe, the IFJ added.

Also, in her remarks the representative of the Norwegian Union of Journalists Eva Stabell said the workshop was coming at a time when global movement for gender equity was high, commending the trainers for dedicating themselves to providing skills to women journalists on the African continent. She said, we are pleased to note that 100 trainings have taken place on the continent, reaching over 2,000 journalists”.

The workshop in Dakar is a follow-up to the 2017 Training-of-Trainers workshop providing an avenue for experience sharing, understanding the challenges of gender equity in the newsrooms and potentials for more engagement.

Participants also received training on how to perform first aid in an emergency.

Pictures below:

The gender and equity programme for female journalists.

Pooling women from across Africa, the Norwegian Union of journalists working with the IFJ, in 2014 held a Women reporting women training workshop and then followed it up with another training of women journalists in 2017, this time focused on “Gender Equity and Safety for Women Journalists, ”  then charging participants to equip females journalists with skills on understand the dynamics of newsroom operations, eliminating those barriers to women advancement in rung of organisations progress, sexual harassment both in the work place and in the field and importantly, equip journalists with safety tips to reduce injuries and fatalities while on the beat.

Again, in 2019 all participants were housed in Dakar to share experiences on trainings.

During the experience sharing, participants agreed that female journalists continue to face sexual harassments in the work place especially in the newsrooms, many female journalists still do not report such incidences, many organizations still do not have reporting systems and some newsrooms still believe there are beats exclusively preserved for men.


Team NIGERIA represented by Rafat Salami of Voice of Nigeria and Veronica Ogbole in their presentation said the Gender Equity and Safety Training workshops through 24 training sessions reaching over 500 journalists.”

 ‘In all our sessions, women taking advantage of the interactive nature of the workshops, spoke freely about sexual harassments in the newsrooms, how senior male officers demanded for sex in exchange of giving them beats or editing their work. Some also spoke about physical assault in the newsroom. Some also shared experiences about assault in the field though. What is obvious is in the Nigerian context is that what is considered sexual harassment differed from culture to culture but in all, women said they were often time subject to unwarranted sexual advances”, Rafat explained.

In separate presentations, both Jane Godia, the Programme Manager for Women in News East and Central Africa, a media development arm of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and Kristin Orgeret  Professor at OsloMet University,  both echoed that Africa appeared to have lost out in the #MeToo campaign as it did not gain as much prominence as it did elsewhere.

Kirsitn shared #MeToo checklist and challenged journalists to speak out against sexual harassment which she said was still prevalent in newsrooms across the continent, while Jane said researches have shown that nearly 64% of women have experienced abuses yet only

While identifying cultural difference in defining what constitutes sexual harassment, participants agreed that sexual harassment is unwanted and offensive behavior of a sexual nature that violates a person’s dignity and makes them feel degraded, humiliated, intimidated or threatened”. She shared the WIN intervention with the group, this she said includes holding a conversation with media owners to understand that sexual harassment has huge cost not only to the person being harassed but also to the organization as productivity is affected.

All 46 journalists agreed to implement campaigns to empower female journalists to speak out against sexual harassment in their organizations.

Ime Njoku